Each year, the U.S. State Department publishes reports on human rights in other countries, monitoring the adoption in various countries around the world of restrictive laws and regulations in this area. Iran, for example, has been criticized for refusing to conduct an open and fair trials and restrictions on privacy, while Russia indignantly condemned for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.
Even when we judge the countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own definition — "the land of freedom." However, the laws and daily practice itself the "land of freedom" should shake that confidence. In the ten years since September 11, 2001, our country has comprehensively restrict civil liberties in the name of the expansion of its national security. The most recent example of this was the National Law empowering actions related to defense activities (National Defense Authorization Act), signed on December 31, according to which you can now carry out the indefinite detention of its own citizens. In that case, what definition we give ourselves at a time when our country will hold a change relating to the restriction of our personal rights?
While all the new powers relating to national security, which assigns itself Washington, are controversial, even at the time of adoption, however, they are often discussed separately from each other. But these powers do not work in isolation. They form a mosaic of those rights provided by the government to allow us to consider our country, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation worldwide symbol of freedom, while countries such as Cuba and China are recognized as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Yes, these countries do not have basic human rights, such as the proper legal system that puts them outside any reasonable definition of "freedom", but now the United States has far more in common with such regimes, regardless because, like that fact someone or not.
These countries also have existing constitution, designed to guarantee its citizens the rights and freedom. But their governments have broad authority to disregard those rights, as citizens, are actually very few real opportunities to defend them. And in fact it is precisely the problem faced by our country in connection with the adoption of new laws.
The list of powers which has received the U.S. government after 9/11 puts us on a par with countries where the alarming human rights situation.
Assassination of U.S. citizens
President Obama as well as President George W. Bush before him told of his right to order the killing of any citizen considered a terrorist or an accomplice to terrorism. Last year, he approved the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and another citizen under this law. Last month, representatives of the presidential administration, confirmed the fact that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers associated with terrorists. (And in fact, countries such as Nigeria, Iran and Syria is regularly criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.)
Under the law signed last month, citizens suspected of terrorism are being detained by the military authorities, the president also has the right to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism. While the administration claims that this provision only codified existing law, experts in the field widely discussed this point of view, and the administration opposes the efforts to challenge in federal courts is their right. The government continues to claim the right to deprive citizens of legal remedies at its discretion. (China recently codified law, which is limited to the period of detention of their citizens in custody, while countries such as Cambodia have been identified by the United States as the country with the "prolonged detention.")
Now the president will decide whether or not a person subject to trial in federal court or a military tribunal, and it is a system that has long been ridiculed around the world because of the lack of basic procedures related to the process of human rights. Bush claimed the right to such authority in 2001, and Obama is just continuing his practice. (Egypt and China condemned for maintaining separate military justice systems for selected defendants, including civilians.)
The president can currently order to organize the monitoring and also received new powers that give him the right to force companies and organizations "merge" financial information of citizens, their dating and communications. Bush acquired this sweeping power under the Patriot Act in 2001, and Obama has expanded the range of powers conferred under this Act, in 2011, and now you can carry out a search of anything from business records and the recordings made to your library card at the library. The government can use "national security letters" (emergency mode for the search, which gives the FBI the right to compel the disclosure of information about clients of banks, telephone companies, Internet — providers and other companies. These organizations are prohibited, or "ordered to keep silent" on the ongoing search, that complicates the supervision of such actions.) with the requirement without good cause to the fact that organizations disclose information about their customers — and order them not to say anything about the injured party held perusal. (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to take part in the surveillance of its citizens on a wide range of issues.)
The government now routinely uses a top-secret evidence to detain individuals and uses this evidence in the federal courts and military tribunals. In addition, it forces "ruin" of the case against the United States, a simple statement of fact that the consideration of the case, make the government reveal classified information that would harm national security — and that is the claim made in the consideration of various lawsuits regarding privacy life is taken by federal judges in the majority of cases, no questions asked. Classified even legal opinions that are cited as reasons for the actions taken by the Bush administration and the Obama administration. This allows the government to classify the legal arguments in support of the secret proceedings using secret evidence. Furthermore, in some cases, cases are not subject to judgment. Federal courts have consistently refused to initiate proceedings relating to constitutional issues within the narrow definition of their rights and responsibilities for carrying out the relevant hearing.
World demanded prosecution of those responsible for waterboarding in water terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, but the Obama administration said in 2009 that it would not allow the CIA to interrogate, or expose them to criminal prosecution for such actions. This negates not only the contractual obligations but the Nuremberg principles of international law. When the court in a country such as Spain, took a step to ensure that an investigation into the activities of certain employees of the Bush administration, for they have committed war crimes, the Obama administration has urged foreign officials not to allow it to continue, despite the fact that the United States itself for a long time make claims on the same powers in relation to alleged war criminals in other countries. (Different countries have resisted demands to investigate the affairs of officials accused of war crimes and torture Some, such as Serbia and Chile, eventually gave way to comply with international law, countries that did not agree with carrying out independent investigations include Iran , Syria and China.)
The government expanded its authority to use the secret court dealing with issues related to the surveillance of foreign agents (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), expanding the list of reasons for which are issued secret orders and include the persons considered instigators or accomplices of hostile foreign governments or organizations. In 2011, Obama again made additions to these powers, including those that allow secret searches of individuals who are not part of a specific terrorist group. Administration has approved its right to ignore restrictions imposed by Congress on such observations. (Pakistan places national security surveillance uncontrolled military or intelligence services.)
Immunity from prosecution
Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration has conducted a successful policy of immunity for companies that assist in the unauthorized surveillance of citizens, blocking the attempts of civilians to be tried for infringement of privacy. (Similarly, China is subjected to critical claims both inside and outside the country against its policy of integrity and routinely blocks lawsuits against their private companies).
Constant surveillance of citizens
The Obama administration has successfully defended its right to use GPS to monitor every move of targeted citizens without any court decision or the relevant report. (Saudi Arabia has established a massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)
The government now has the ability to send and citizens and non-citizens in another country under a system known as "extraordinary rendition", the use of which in other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan for the purpose of torture of suspects was convicted. The Obama administration says it has ceased to abuse the practice adopted under Bush, but it insists on an unlimited right to issue orders for such transfers — including the possible transfer exercise of American citizens.
These new laws appeared together with an infusion of money into an expanded security system on the state and federal levels, including the new state of cameras for the order of tens of thousands of security personnel and a massive increase in bureaucracy associated with the anti-terrorist activities.
Some politicians shrug and say that such broad powers only answer to the life we live. So, last spring, Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), without more ado said in an interview that "freedom of speech is a great idea, but we are at war." Then, of course, terrorism will never "surrender" and a "war" will never come to an end.
Other politicians argue that, while such powers may exist, in the end, it all comes down to how to use them. This is the usual reaction of liberals who can not bring themselves to condemn Obama as they denounced Bush. Sen. Carl Levin, for example, insists that Congress can not take any decision on the question of detention for an indefinite period, "This is a decision that we will leave, to whom it belongs — the executive branch."
By signing the declaration on the bill to expand the powers in relation to activities undertaken for the protection of the country, Obama said that he did not intend to use them in order to imprison citizens indefinitely. However, he still refers to his authority from the position of a kind of regretting autocrat.
Authoritarian country is determined not only by the use of authoritarian powers, but also the possibility of using them at all.
If a president can take away your freedom or life within its powers, all your rights are nothing more than the subject of discretionary (received at its sole discretion — approx. Interpreter) wishes dependent on the will of most of the executive power.
The creators of the country lived in the days of authoritarian rule and understood this danger better than we do. As you know, James Madison warned that we needed a system that would not depend on good intentions and motivations of our rulers: "If men were angels, there would be no need of any government."
Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, when Ms. Powell faced with Franklin after the signing of the Constitution, she asked him: "Well, Doctor, what have we now have — republic or a monarchy?" His response was a bit chilling: "republic, madam, if you be able to keep it. "
After 9/11, we have created the very government that is so afraid of the creators of our country: a government with broad and largely uncontrollable powers c the hope that they will be used wisely.
Detention for an indefinite period prescribed in the bill for many supporters of civil liberties seemed a betrayal by Obama. While the president had promised to veto the bill because of that provision, Levin, author of the bill, speaking in the Senate, admitted that in fact it is the White House, and they are not approved the removal of any exception for citizens of our country from indefinite detention custody.
There is nothing new for the Americans in the dishonesty of politicians, however, the present question is whether we are lying to ourselves when still call our country "the land of freedom."
Jonathan Turley, a professor of civil law at George Washington University.