Friday, September 08, 2006

Are You For The Bill of Rights, Or Are You Against It?

There is value, in political communication, to stating issues in simple terms that are easy to understand. So, let me phrase this issue in terms of a simple question, one that Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri ought to answer: Are you for the Bill of Rights, or are you against the Bill of Rights?

If you're for the Bill of Rights, then you must be against the proposal put forth by George W. Bush this week. President Bush has asked Congress to give him the power to put people on trial without allowing them to see the the evidence against them. Bush wants to convict people of crimes and punish them on the basis of secret evidence that the accused, and the accused's lawyer, never gets to see. Why will the evidence be secret? Well, Bush wants to keep that information secret too.

So, what will this new kind of trial look like? You can boil it down to three steps.

1. The government accuses you of a crime.
2. The government says that it has evidence that proves your guilt, but that evidence has to remain a secret, so no one can see it.
3. You're convicted and sentenced to pay a fine, spend time in prison, or even be put to death.

This is not the American way. I'm don't mean that abstractly. I mean that, as a matter of law, this procedure is not the American way of holding a trial. It's the way they held trials in Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union. The Constitution of the United States of America says that what Bush is asking to do is strictly forbidden.

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, reads:

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."


A couple days ago, a smart aleck came on this blog and declared that the Constitution only gives rights to American citizens. Everybody else has no rights, this person claimed. It's amazing what a bold assertion, given under the cover of ignorance, can do. The plan fact is that this person was dead wrong. The Constitution of the United States regulates the American government completely, including its dealings with all people under its powers. Everybody under the jurisdiction of the US government - including all its prisoners, foreign and domestic - have the same constitutional rights.

Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier are lawyers. They know what the historical standard has been. They know what rights the Bill of Rights guarantees us. They also know very well what George W. Bush has proposed.

If Bush's request is put into law, it will be through the Congress. Mike Arcuri and Ray Meier are asking to represent us in Congress. So, it seems to me quite appropriate that Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier address this issue. Do they support the Bill of Rights or not?

So far, Arcuri and Meier have both been silent about the extraordinary revelation that President Bush personally ordered the creation of an illegal system of CIA prisoner of war camps in which torture methods like waterboarding are being used against prisoners who have had their habeas corpus rights and Geneva Conventions protections denied to them.

This silence is shocking, given the gravity of the situation. It should not be compounded by a silence in response to the attempt by Bush to overturn the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

8 comments:

Frederick said...

I second that!

Anonymous said...

24,surely you jest.Most high schoolers know that in certain ways the Constitution is restrictive to non citizens.Did you ever read the Preamble? Can anyone and everyone vote? Can a person born in another country, let alone someone who is not a citizen, be President?Is it not true illegals can be swept up and deported ? Yes, there are some instances where the courts have extended rights and some where they have not.To date there is no instance of a Supreme Court ruling defining any Bush action as unconstitutional.You, in your anti- Bush rants, should not oversimplify constitutional matters to serve your political purposes.Finally, US constitutional rights have, to date, not been extended to enemy combatants.

24 Independent said...

I don't jest. Constitutional rights don't HAVE to be extended to these people, because they haven't been restricted.

Bush isn't treating these people as prisoners of war, but as criminals. People held as criminals by the U.S. government are protected by our system of constitutional rights, especially as established in the Bill of Rights - right to a fair and speedy trial, right to see evidence against you, and to confront accusers, etc.

It's a very clear matter. Bush says it isn't, but that's because he's breaking the law.

Mike Sylvia said...

One candidate has been quite clear on the Bill of Rights; Mike Sylvia. Granted, I don't have a million dollar campaign to tell everyone my position, but simple and honest is my path. Your position on this matter is correct; the Constitution grants limited authority to our government. The ruling duopoly has tattered our Constitutional government. It is time to 'take back the 24th' from the corrupt Republicrat beast.

Anonymous said...

12:36 you really missed it. The Preamble to the Constitution doesn't speak to rights.

The Constitution doesn't restrict rights to American citizens, it enforces God given rights for all humans on American soil. NONE of the amendments (the Bill of Rights are the 1st ten amendments) restrict rights to citizens. If you are a Canadian and commit a crime here, you have the same rights as an American, just as an American committing a crime in Canada has the same rights there as a Canadian. How is that?

Because, our Declaration if Independence declared the common belief that God gave us rights and we created governments to protect and enforce those rights. And I quote:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

Jon is 100% correct here.

24 Independent said...

The only correction I'd make to that last comment is that our system of laws does NOT recognize our rights as provided by God. Rather, our rights are ensured by the Constitution.

The Declaration of Independence was a political document, not a legal one. It was not recognized by Americans at the time as having any legal authority in terms of establishing a system of laws. It was the equivalent of a speech, so that it wasn't the declaration that made us independent. It was a declaration that we were independent.

Even if the Declaration of Independence did have any legal standing in establishing laws and rights, it would have been overruled by the Constitution of the United States, which as amended in the Bill of Rights, clearly states that there is to be no government establishment of religion - and that includes the concept that our rights are provided by a divine being, and not a democratic process.

Anonymous said...

Oh Jon, I didn't make my point clear. Simply put, the Founders believed that man could not grant rights, they were inherently ours to begin with. What our Constitution does is enforce those rights on American soil and it enforces them for every human, regardless of citizenship, because those are human rights (emphasis on human).

I tried to put it in a context more easily understood by the many who are indoctrinated in religion. The Declaration of Independence has significant legal standing in that we legally usurped the power of the King of England with it and retained that power collectively. If you don't accept that, there is no basis for eminent domain and the application of our own legal system based on English Common Law. Additionally, it is the significant interpretative document expressing the intent of the Founders much as Madison's papers are used in reviewing the intent of the Bill of Rights when applying the First Ten Amendments.

All that said, I believe we are in total agreement anyway. Bush has significantly violated our Constitution while claiming to be wanting to give others the same government power to enforce their equal human rights. His only defense would be to claim he was dumber than a box of rocks.

24 Independent said...

Yes, I think that you and I are in agreement on the important things. I'm just disagreeing with you about the significance of the Declaration of Independence and its statement about a Creator.

I believe that we Americans took the step of independence well before the Declaration of Independence. I suggest a good book, Founding Myths, for information about the popular uprising in the Massachusetts countryside that effectively ended British sovereignty there - before the whole bit about Lexington and Concord, and Paul Revere, and all that. I hold that it was through the seizure of sovereignty that we became sovereign, not through the issuance of a piece of paper.

At any rate, it's the Constitution that gives us the rights we have as citizens, and that was created by people, not by anything supernatural. I don't believe that political rights are somehow inherent in the universe. I believe that we have to choose to create systems in which people have rights, and not just rely on the providence of the cosmos to support them.

With many actions over the last five years, and especially now with the suggestions in Congress that Americans give up the right to a fair trial and chuck habeas corpus out the window, our rights are at risk.

Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri are pretending that this problem doesn't exist. They're talking about poll results and who endorses them. They're failing to fulfill their responsibilities as leaders, and behaving instead as mere politicians.