Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Remember the 5th Amendment?
by Bob Bauman
Rarely in my long life’s experience have two news items been published on the same day that demonstrated such palpable irony.
The two stories that appeared in The New York Times last Friday (Sept. 30) and when read together, they present a sharp incongruity and discordance that far exceeds the simple and evident intention of the words and actions recounted.
Due Process: 1945
Item #1: In a column entitled “The Nuremberg Scripts” Joe Nocera told how, in November 1945, six months after Nazi Germany’s surrender to the victorious Allies, a 24-year-old Army combat engineer named Harold Burson was handed a new assignment: daily reports on the Nuremberg trial of the top Nazis leaders for the American Armed Forces Radio Network. For the next five months, Burson was one of two soldiers who reported on the trial and produced a daily “script,” read over the air by the AFRN announcers.
Mr. Burson, who is 90 now, is the co-founder of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest public relations firms, says that every five years or so, he goes back and re-reads those old scripts, marveling at the remarkable experience he’d been afforded at such a young age.
Nocera says there was an aspect to Burson’s scripts he “…found quite endearing. They have an earnest, idealistic quality that reminds you just how full of hope America was after World War II.
“Though we had fought a brutal war, we were determined to act generously to the vanquished. That even applied to the Nazi brass who had committed reprehensible crimes against humanity. “G.I.’s have one stock question,” reads Burson’s very first 1945 script. “Why can’t we just take them out and shoot ’em? We know they’re guilty.”
Due Process: 2011
Item #2: In a “news analysis” in the same Times edition, Scott Shane reported: “The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen struck on Friday by a missile fired from a drone aircraft operated by his own government, instantly reignited a difficult debate over terrorism, civil liberties and the law.”
In a statement my former U.S. House of Representatives colleague, Rep. Ron Paul, said President Obama was “appointing himself judge, jury and executioner by presidential decree” and was acting outside “the Constitution or the rule of law” He added: “Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. Under our Constitution, American citizens, even those living abroad, must be charged with a crime before being sentenced.” He suggested the president could be impeached for the killing.
“In any way destroyed…”
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one of the most important protections in our Bill of Rights says in part: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”
The United States Supreme Court has held: ”It is now the settled doctrine of this Court that the Due Process Clause embodies a system of rights based on moral principles so deeply imbedded in the traditions and feelings of our people as to be deemed fundamental to a civilized society as conceived by our whole history. Due Process is that which comports with the deepest notions of what is fair and right and just.” Solesbee v. Balkcom, 339 U.S. 9, 16 (1950);’ Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105 (1934).
The concept of due process goes all the way back to Magna Carta, (1215) in which King John promised that ”[n]o free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized or exiled or in any way destroyed…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”
Pressed to justify the constitutional law professor/president’s open defiance of the Fifth Amendment in ordering the murder of a U.S. citizen without trial, the White House press secretary refused to respond. As the Washington Post put it, “The administration officials refused to disclose the exact legal analysis used to authorize targeting Aulaqi, or how they considered any Fifth Amendment right to due process.”
Glen Greenwald said it: “That is the mindset of the U.S. Government and its followers expressed as vividly as can be: we can spy on, imprison, or even kill anyone we want – including citizens – without any due process or any evidence shown, simply because we will tell you they are Bad People, and you will trust us and believe us.”
Deeply Embedded Hypocrisy
A writer from Bangor, Maine commented: “…we target and kill an American citizen without trial. I’m not saying this man’s actions didn’t deserve punishment. But why even bother to pretend anymore? Why bother? Maybe with Obama’s latest drone kill we can let the hypocrisy go. But remember, Americans. Remotely-controlled drones can fly and kill over American cities just as easily as they can fly and kill over Yemen.”
Ask yourself this question: In the 66 years from the Nuremberg Trial 1945 to the White House 2011, what has happened to America’s belief in what the Supreme Court described as those “moral principles so deeply imbedded in the traditions and feelings of our people as to be deemed fundamental to a civilized society…”
The next time you hear what sounds like a small plane flying overhead, look up. If the president decides you are one of those Bad People, it might be the last thing you ever see.