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Challenging My Senator on NDAA (2)

The following is an exchange between Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH) and myself regarding the National Defense Authorization Act. My original letter to the Senator can be found here.


<<" Some have expressed concerns about provisions within the defense authorization bill that address how we treat terrorist detainees-those we capture who are members of al Qaeda or associated groups who are seeking to kill Americans and our allies….At issue is the fundamental question about whether the United States is at war with radical Islamists who are seeking to kill Americans and our allies.  Some would prefer to treat terrorists as common criminals">>

I’m sorry, but you are wrong. “At issue” is your assumption that a person IS what they're accused of being based on nothing but an accusation. 

It amazes me that U.S. representatives don't even possess this basic understanding of the American justice system...You are not authorized to strip an individual of their rights based on ‘charges’ alone. Evidence must be presented and an individual must be permitted to defend his or herself. Prior to this ‘due process’ a person is merely an ACCUSED criminal. (Thief, rapist, murderer or terrorist…the crime that an individual is accused of does not alter the process by which guilt is determined.) Nobody opposes this law because they want to protect 'terrorists,' they oppose it because they want to protect people who are FALSELY ACCUSED of being terrorists or ‘associated’ with terrorists. 


<< “Any questions regarding the reality of the war we are engaged in and whether terrorists have brought the war to our homeland were put to rest on September 11, 2001.  The attacks, and attempted attacks since that tragic day, have only confirmed that we remain at war with a deadly and determined enemy whose goal is to bring the war here and to strike us on our own soil.”>>


Let’s see: “War, terrorists, war, homeland, September 11, attacks, attempted attacks, tragic, at war, deadly and determined enemy, war, strike us on our own soil.” My God, could you possibly cram any more appeals to fear in a single paragraph? 


This propaganda technique might work on some people (maybe it even worked on you) but it has no effect on those of us who refuse to surrender critical thought. So, let’s step away from the emotional bubble you just tried to create and look at some facts:


1. The government COULD HAVE stopped the 9/11 attacks. (It had the intelligence it needed, it had the authority it needed and it had multiple opportunities.) Now, think about that for a minute.  …Prior to 9/11, American citizens still lived in a country that protected them from unreasonable search & seizure, arrest without charges, indefinite detention, torture or even assassination. Despite this, the government was still able to obtain everything it needed to prevent the 9/11 attacks (though it failed to do so.) What then was the justification for seizing illegal / unconstitutional power following 9/11? 


2. Yes, citizens were attacked and killed on 9/11/2001. As stated, this happened NOT because the government lacked power, but because ‘mistakes were made.’ Therefore, the first thing the government should have done was conduct a legitimate investigation into who dropped the ball and why. Instead, it stonewalled every attempt to get at the facts, held nobody accountable and used its own failure as an excuse to violate its primary purpose (preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.) 


3. The oft cited justification for engaging in these illegal / unconstitutional activities (‘trying to protect the homeland’) is no more legitimate coming from the mouths of US policy makers than any other government. You are paving the way for a dominant class that can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants…all it needs to do is call the target(s) of its actions a ‘terrorist’ or a person ‘associated with terrorists.’ This is beyonddangerous. You’ve created a ‘Bill-of-Rights-free’ designation that can, has, and will continue to be abused. 


For instance:


  • Did you know that the Department of Defense put out a training manual that called protests ‘low-level terrorism?”Click Here  


  • Did you know that, prior to publication on Wikileaks, The Missouri Information Analysis Center (a ‘fusion center’ operating under Homeland Security and tasked with ‘terrorism prevention’) was circulating a report that said BUMPER STICKERS, including those in support of Ron Paul, could be used to identify terrorists? Click Here 


  • Did you know the government has already put into place ‘perverse career incentives’ that, as Coleen Rowley wrote: “…pressure FBI counter-terrorism agents to produce "stats." An agent gains ‘stats’ for serving subpoenas, national security letters for records, executing search warrants, contacting confidential sources, etc., whether or not any relevant evidence is obtained via this ‘work’ and whether or not it leads to prosecution or preventing a crime.”Click Here 

Thanks to misguided legislators, federal “law-enforcement” officers can now violate the law that they swore an oath to uphold, provided they use the right words against their target. I’ll repeat: this legislation wasn’t needed to prevent 9/11. I’ll repeat: it is illegal and dangerous to create a system of justice that ‘disappears’ individuals (or worse) based on nothing but an accusation. 


Consider, for instance, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI deliberately framing these men. (Please watch the clip.) How much easier will this kind of abuse be when the ‘framing’ involves nothing more than claiming an individual is somehow connected with ‘al Qaeda?’ 


Your letter is filled with statements like “By placing terrorists in our criminal justice system” and “treat them for who they are-enemies of our country” and “If an American citizen chooses to join al Qaeda, with whom we are at war, and seeks to aid our enemies in killing his or her fellow Americans…”


The problem with your position is that it begins with a presumption of guilt; the polar opposite of what every civilized legal system instructs you to do. You go on and on about ‘protecting Americans’ without realizing you’re trading an anomalous and sporadic threat to their liberties for one that is nearly omnipresent and, worse, has been codified into law. You’re right that individuals that are found guilty of engaging in terrorism should be punished…nobody is arguing otherwise.    


<<“The larger point is that, when we treat enemy combatants like common criminals, we risk losing intelligence that can save American lives.”>>


And when you pave the way for Soviet-style ‘security,’ we lose something even more precious. Which brings me to another point: the over-the-top fear mongering and exploitation of 9/11 to justify the erosion of basic civil liberties. 


The government constantly beats the terrorism drum, as if terrorism is the greatest threat to our lives. But it isn’t…it isn’t even close. Before you can talk about all the ‘lives’ you’re trying to save with this anti-American legislation, some perspective is in order. There is a good / short article on that topic here. (If statistical threat provides a reasonable measure of what we should ‘be afraid of,’ why is it that the greatest threats we face are minimized or ignored while others are exaggerated or outright fabricated. Could it be because the latter-mentioned "threats" benefit special interests?) Now, to be fair, it isn’t just the United States government that is using the ‘terrorist threat’ to increase its power. Click Here


As for the rest of your letter: If you don’t understand the clear, simple and explicit language of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, I have little faith in your ability to interpret this intentionally ambiguous legislation. 


Indefinite detention, torture, assassinations…each are now (in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’) established policy because people like you have betrayed their oath of office. …well, that’s not entirely true. “We the people” have certainly contributed to the problem by ignoring Washington’s foreign policy, monetary policy and domestic policy for far too long. 


For what it’s worth, I accept my part in all of this and I am doing what I can to effect change. It’s about time for those of you in Congress to do the same. 


Joseph Plummer


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