...in a signing statement with the defense authorization bill, Obama said he does not intend to use the latest power to indefinitely imprison citizens.
Yet, he still accepted the power as a sort of regretful autocrat...
At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?
...The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.
Assassination of U.S. citizens
...Last month, administration officials affirmed that power, stating that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists...
Under the law signed last month, terrorism suspects are to be held by the military; the president also has the authority to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism. ...The government continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion...
The president now decides whether a person will receive a trial in the federal courts or in a military tribunal, a system that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections...
The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations. ...The government can use “national security letters” to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens — and order them not to reveal the disclosure to the affected party.
The government now routinely uses secret evidence to detain individuals and employs secret evidence in federal and military courts... Even legal opinions...have been classified. This allows the government to claim secret legal arguments to support secret proceedings using secret evidence...
The government has increased its use of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, ...including allowing secret searches of individuals who are not part of an identifiable terrorist group. The administration has asserted the right to ignore congressional limits on such surveillance...
Immunity from judicial review
Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens, blocking the ability of citizens to challenge the violation of privacy...
Continual monitoring of citizens
The Obama administration has successfully defended its claim that it can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review...
The government now has the ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition...
The Obama administration...insists on the unfettered right to order such transfers — including the possible transfer of U.S. citizens.
...If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.
The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do.
James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
...Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely.
...The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free."
Shapiro professor of public interest law
at George Washington University