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Jun 22 2016

Protecting The 2nd Amendment At Any Price

On Monday the Senate voted on four bills on gun control. Needless to say, the wholly owned Senate defeated even the most reasonable measure that would have closed the loop hole in back ground checks at gun shows and on line. Instead Congress panders to the right wing gun lovers and idiots who think that we can win an ideological war with people who hate us by bombing the crap out of them while demanding more unconstitutional power to destroy the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments. The people who want to destroy this country aren’t in the Middle East. They are already here. They are every senator, representative and member of a state legislature that refuses to vote for better gun control and banning of military style weapons like the ones used at Sandy Hook and Orlando. They are the ones who think by saying magic words like “ISIS” and “Islamic Terrorists” it will defeat something, who knows what. They keep repeating themselves because they have no better ideas. These are the men and women who are making us less safe and destroying our real freedom. And for what? Money of course, the donations from the NRA, gun lobbyists and those people who want to keep us afraid of our own shadows line their own pockets of these tools.

Now in the wake of those failed votes and while families are still burying their loved ones, the Senate is trying to sneak through an amendment to the judiciary appropriations bill that would expand the FBI’s use of national security letters (NSL). This is long read my Marcy Wheeler at her blog emptywheel but well worth the time to read in full.

As I noted, one of the two poison pills that stalled (if not killed) ECPA reform in the Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks back was a John Cornyn amendment that would give the FBI authority to obtain Electronic Communication Transaction Records — which have been billed as email records, but include far more, including URLs and IP records — with an NSL again.

In a move akin to what he did by attaching CISA to last year’s Omnibus bill, Mitch McConnell has moved to shove that amendment through, this time on the Judiciary Appropriation.

Marcy clearly notes that this amendment would not have stopped the Orlando shooting, yet this is the best that congress can do it response to the daily blood bath caused by the use of guns that happens in this country.

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept points out that the bills that the Democrats put forward were blatantly unconstitutional by creating another secret terrorist list which circumvents due process:

Worse than the measure itself is the rancid rhetoric they are using. To justify this new list, Democrats, in unison, are actually arguing that the U.S. government must constrain people whom they are now calling “potential terrorists.” [..]

What is a “potential terrorist”? Isn’t everyone that? And who wants the U.S. government empowered to unilaterally restrict what citizens can do based on predictions or guesses about what they might become or do in the future? Does anyone have any doubt that this will fall disproportionately on certain groups and types of people?

The Democrats’ most extreme attack on due process comes, unsurprisingly, from that party’s supremely authoritarian Terror Warrior, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose bill would “give the attorney general the discretion to block a sale to a given individual suspected of involvement of some kind in terrorism.” In their effort to exploit Orlando and other recent mass shootings, Feinstein and the Democrats encountered a serious problem: Neither Omar Mateen, nor the racist Charleston killer Dylann Roof, nor numerous other mass shooters, were on any terrorist watchlist (Mateen was investigated by the FBI, which — rightly — closed its file on him in 2014 after it found no evidence of wrongdoing). So Feinstein wrote a special provision in her bill to obviate this objection, one empowering the attorney general to put anyone on the banned list “who has been investigated in the last five years for ‘conduct related to a Federal crime of terrorism’” — even if they were ultimately found to have done nothing wrong. [..]

For eight years, this mentality was the driving force behind the worst Bush/Cheney war-on-terror abuses. No matter what the extremist policy was — indefinite detention, warrantless eavesdropping, torture, no-fly lists, Guantánamo, rendition, CIA black sites — Republicans would justify it by saying it was merely being done to “terrorists” and would accuse their due process-advocating critics of wanting to “protect terrorists.” What they actually meant was that all of this was being done to people accused by the U.S. government of involvement in terrorism. But in their mind, “government accusations of terrorism” were synonymous with “proof of guilt.”

That is exactly the warped, Orwellian formulation Democrats embrace: As is extremely obvious, the Democrats’ definition of “terrorist” is “anyone whom the U.S. government suspects of being a terrorist.” Just as was true of all those GOP abuses, what makes these Democratic proposals so dangerous is that they constitute a war on the most basic right of due process. As Vox’s Dara Lind explained, “If you give the government more power to ban terrorists from having guns, you’re reinforcing the power it has to define who counts as a terrorist.” That’s why the ACLU yesterday wrote to the Senate and denounced Feinstein’s bill. [..]

Thus they have cheered all sorts of attacks on due process in the name of fearmongering over terrorism. Obama presided over a significant increase in mass surveillance. He has gone around the world, in at least seven predominantly Muslim countries, killing people with bombs and missiles shot by drones, then justifying it on the ground that the people he wanted to kill were terrorists. Democrats even stood and cheered as the Obama administration asserted (and exercised) the right to target U.S. citizens for execution via drone, based on nothing more than suspicion and government accusations; they even went to court to deny a father the right to have his American son have his day in court before being killed by the U.S. government.

[It should go without saying that Republicans here are no better. They watched approvingly for years as Bush and Cheney implemented this due process-free system of watchlists and secret punishments for terror suspects because it was predominantly affecting Muslims, and only began caring this year when their system (predictably) expanded, now to include gun rights. [..]

Moreover, for years, fearmongering about terrorism and accusing due process-advocating liberals of loving al Qaeda were staples of the GOP’s rhetoric. And GOP leaders still have not lost their touch when it comes to exploiting terror fears; just this week, Mitch McConnell plans to introduce a bill to expand secret, warrantless domestic surveillance by invoking Orlando.]

The Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of “due process” is really not that complicated: It provides that “no person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This is not some ancillary luxury; it’s one of the few genuine safeguards against tyranny. If you want to ban someone from buying a gun because you believe they’re a Terrorist or otherwise a Bad Person, then go create a procedure where the government must go to an actual court, present evidence, the accused can respond, and then a judicial ruling is issued. What kind of a person opposes that?

What Americans want are sane gun control laws that are constitutional such as:

Closing the loop holes in background checks at gun shows, online and for private sales and transfers (no, you should be able to bestow your firearms collection to your crazy family member without a background check);

laws like those in Connecticut and New York that ban the sale and ownership of military style assault rifles and large capacity magazines;

and clear federal regulation of interstate gun transportation.

These are the laws that will keep Americans safe and protect our freedom.