PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Super-PAC Tuesday

Ten states are holding primaries and caucuses today, earning March 6th the title of “Super Tuesday.” Participants will show up, cast their vote, and hopefully feel good for participating in the democratic process and fulfilling their civic duty.

But thanks to Citizens United, and the Super PACs that flawed decision gave rise to, the voters are not the stars of this show. An outpouring of cash from a few extremely wealthy donors has dramatically altered the campaign landscape, altering the balance of influence from individual donors and grassroots donors to rich special interests and corporations.

As illustrated above by Dave Granlund, tonight’s contests should really be called Super-PAC Tuesday. NPR reports that in the ten states up for grabs, Super PACs have spent a whopping $12 million for ads:

Leading the way is Restore Our Future, the superPAC that backs former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. According to Federal Election Commission numbers, Restore Our Future has spent $6.9 million on the Super Tuesday states.

"The groups have clearly taken the lead in advertising for the whole Republican primary. They're very much taking the lead in advertising for Super Tuesday. It's mostly the 'Restore Our Future show,' followed by Winning Our Future, which is the Gingrich group, and Red, White and Blue, which is the Santorum group," says Ken Goldstein, who tracks political ad spending for Kantar Media CMAG.

Red, White and Blue has spent some $1.3 million on Super Tuesday, and has been running an ad in Ohio that goes after Romney for his alleged similarities to the man all Republicans want to defeat in November: President Obama.

These ads supposedly (and unconvincingly) act independently from a candidate’s official campaign, meaning that candidates are unaccountable for their content. But as Katrina vanden Huevel points out in today’s Washington Post, these superPACs reach “barely a legal fiction,” populated as they are with former staff and fundraisers for the candidates they “independently” support.  And this is in addition to the spending by 501 c-4 organizations the sources for which do not even have to be disclosed.

This is not what democracy looks like. We have to end unfettered political spending in our elections system – and solutions like the DISCLOSE Act and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United are gaining steam. $12 million worth of ads on Super-PAC Tuesday alone should convince everyone that enough is enough.

PFAW

NYT Echoes PFAW's Call for Judge Cebull's Resignation

The New York Times echoes PFAW President Michael Keegan’s call for Federal District Court Judge Richard Cebull’s resignation in an editorial published today.

Cebull, who admitted sending a racist, sexist email about President Obama’s late mother, has apologized and referred himself for disciplinary review. But an apology isn’t enough. Being a federal judge requires exemplary judgment and requires that one maintain an image beyond reproach. As the NYT notes,

Apologizing for atrocious behavior is better than not trying to apologize. Rush Limbaugh’s nonapology to Sandra Fluke for calling her a prostitute was a good example. But sometimes even a seemingly sincere apology is not enough….

His dislike of the president is so strong, apparently, he could not resist the urge to violate his ethical duty to avoid intemperate conduct that suggests racial and political bias and an appearance, at least, of impropriety. Although Judge Cebull did not intend for his e-mail to become public, his use of a government computer and an official e-mail account to spread the hateful message removes any claim that his action was purely private.

Unfortunately for Judge Cebull, mending fences with the President is not enough to restore the public’s trust. He cast irreversible doubt over his ability to be impartial regardless of who the parties are, but most importantly, he has shown that he lacks the temperament necessary for a member of the federal bench.

He should resign.

PFAW Foundation

Senate Obstruction Continues: The Chart

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Politico that he plans to push forward on filling the federal courts, despite unprecedented Republican obstructionism. Here is what Americans who value the courts are up against:

Despite a vacancy crisis in the federal courts that has led to delayed justice for Americans across the country, Senate Republicans have been using every delay tactic in the books to prevent qualified nominees from getting through the system.

The dotted line represents the average time  President Bush’s confirmed judicial nominees at this point in his presidency had to wait for a floor vote after committee approval. The blue lines are President Obama’s nominees – almost all with overwhelming bipartisan support , yet mostly forced to wait for months on end for no reason.

If Senate Republicans keep filibustering these nominees, Sen. Reid will be forced to start a cumbersome and time-consuming cloture process for each and every one of them. Such filibuster abuse is a waste fo the Senate’s time, and it’s bad for America’s courts.
 

PFAW

Prop 8 Makes Its Stage Debut

Dustin Lance Black, the writer behind J. Edgar and Oscar winner for Milk, is bringing the story of California’s Proposition 8 to the stage.

Black’s 8 had its Broadway premiere on September 19, 2011:

And debuted in Los Angeles this past Saturday:

Thanks to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the LA event was streamed live on the Internet for all to see.

During the LA curtain call, director Rob Reiner brought David Boies, one of the attorneys in the case, up on stage. (1:59:19) I think Boies sums it up best.

We did put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear and prejudice lost.

PFAW had this to say (and this) following last month’s Ninth Circuit ruling:

Today’s ruling is a major victory for equality and for the thousands of California couples who saw their marriage rights disappear four years ago.

Proposition 8 hurt Californians. It took away the freedom of committed couples to legally marry, to raise children in security, to visit each other in the hospital and to provide for each other in old age. It hurt gay and lesbian Californians, and it hurt their friends and families. Proposition 8 wasn’t just unconstitutional – it was simply wrong.

I congratulate all the Californians who have regained their freedom to marry, and hope that that freedom will soon be extended to every American.

Indeed, we must keep working to ensure that marriage discrimination does not persist at the federal level. Please take a moment to add your name to PFAW's petition urging Congress to Dump DOMA and end this unconstitutional, discriminatory policy once and for all.

PFAW

Romney Adds Ashcroft to List of Extreme Advisers

More mainstays of the Republican establishment announced their endorsement of Mitt Romney over the weekend. However, it’s not just the current faces of the party like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Tom Coburn who have tipped their hats; Romney is also registering the support of ghosts of GOP past: Bush Administration attorney general John Ashcroft.

Romney is apparently trying to court as many extremists to his campaign as possible – the addition of Ashcroft dovetails closely with the fringe views of his legal adviser, the rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

As attorney general, Ashcroft oversaw a relentless assault on Americans’ civil liberties. He approved warrantless wiretapping, secret military tribunals, racial profiling, aggressively implemented the PATRIOT Act, and created the “enemy combatant” status in an attempt to justify ignoring the Constitution in order to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects without charges.

Many of Ashcroft’s longstanding views still sit squarely with current GOP priorities:

  • He singlehandedly sabotaged confirmation of judicial nominees he didn’t like and has helped pack the federal courts with extreme Right-Wing judges;
  • He perpetuates the War on Women and has sought to amend the Constitution and pass legislation that would eliminate a women’s right an abortion, even for rape and incest victims, and supported making common birth control methods illegal;
  • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, designed to protect vulnerable groups of Americans who have long experienced overt discrimination for reasons having nothing to do with their job qualifications; 
  • He opposed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would have amended federal law to recognize hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender and disability;
  • He opposed school desegregation in Missouri;
  • He disregards the separation of church and state by helping funnel government funds to religious organizations that discriminate based on religion and led daily prayer and Bible study sessions at the Justice Department;
  • He helped rig the vote by investigating Republican claims of voter fraud while ignoring charges of voter disenfranchisement.

Ashcroft’s own words perfectly sum up his policy positions:

“There are voices in the Republican Party today who preach pragmatism, who champion conciliation, who counsel compromise. I stand here today to reject those deceptions. If ever there was a time to unfurl the banner of unabashed conservatism, it is now.” --April 10, 1998

If Mitt Romney shares Ashcroft’s extremist sentiments, he will be unable to unite the country should he win the nomination. Ashcroft’s open hostility to the Bill of Rights has no place in this campaign.

However, singing lessons are always welcome.

 

 

The full video is here.

PFAW

Blinded by the Hate: The Real Problem With Judge Cebull's Email

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Earlier this week a Great Falls Tribune reporter found something startling in his inbox: a shockingly racist and misogynistic email forwarded from the most powerful federal judge in Montana, which "joked" that the president of the United States was the product of his mother having sex with a dog. The story soon became national news, with groups like ours calling on Judge Richard Cebull to resign. Cebull quickly apologized to the president and submitted himself to a formal ethics review, somewhat quelling the story. But the story is about more than one judge doing something wildly inappropriate and deeply disturbing. It's about a conservative movement in which the bile and animosity directed at the president -- and even his family -- are so poisonous that even someone who should know better easily confuses political criticism and sick personal attack. Come on: going after the president's late mother? Attempting to explain his email forward, Judge Cebull told the reporter, John S. Adams,

The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan. I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. Is sent it out because it's anti-Obama.

Judge Cebull is hardly alone in using the old "I'm not racist, but..." line. In fact, his email was the result of an entire movement built on "I'm not racist, but..." logic that equates disagreement with and dislike of the president with broad-based, racially charged smears. These smears, tacitly embraced by the GOP establishment, are more than personal shots at the president -- they're attacks on the millions of Americans who make up our growing and changing country. Mainstream conservatives have genuine objections to President Obama's priorities and policies. But since he started running for president, a parallel movement has sprung up trying to paint Obama as an outsider and an imposter -- in unmistakably racially charged terms. Too often, the two movements have intersected. The effort to paint Obama as a threatening foreigner sprung up around the right-wing fringe in the run-up to the 2008 election with the typically muddled conspiracy theory that painted him as both a secret Muslim and a member of an America-hating church. They soon coalesced in the birther movement, which even today is championed by a strong coalition of state legislators and a certain bombastic Arizona sheriff. But the birther movement, the "secret Muslim" meme and the idea that the president of the United States somehow hates his own country are no longer confined to the less visible right-wing fringe. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, until recently a frontrunner in the GOP presidential race, continually hammers on the president's otherness, most notably criticizing his "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior." Rick Santorum flatly claims that Obama does not have the Christian faith that he professes, and eagerly courted the endorsement of birther leader Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And before they dropped out, Rick Perry and Herman Cain couldn't resist flirting with birtherism. But perhaps more than either of these fringe-candidates-turned-frontrunners, Mitt Romney has been catering to the strain of conservatism that deliberately confuses policy disagreements with racially-charged personal animosity. Romney went in front of TV cameras to smilingly accept the endorsement of Donald Trump, whose own failed presidential campaign was based on demanding the president's readily available birth certificate. And Gov. Romney continually attacks Obama -- falsely -- for going around the world "apologizing for America." Judge Cebull needs to take responsibility for his own actions. And if the GOP has any aspirations of providing real leadership to this country, it needs to jettison the deeply personal vitriol being direct against Barack Obama and start talking about real issues. When a federal judge has seen so much racially-charged propaganda against the president of the United States that he can claim not to know the difference between genuine disagreement and offensive personal smears, something in our discourse has gone terribly awry.

PFAW

Minnesotans Soul Search on Marriage Equality

On a hunch that voters are more influenced by their own experience rather than a birrage of big-budget advertising on the issue of marriage equality, Minnesota Public Radio put together an excellent miniseries asking Minnesotans to share their stories about how they came to their decision – or are still struggling to decide – how they will vote on marriage equality in November.

The stories are striking for their sincerity and level of introspection. While each story was unique, there were common themes among those who stand on the side of equality for all: Love. Commitment. Family. Freedom. Equality for All.

Enjoy these videos below, and you can view the full set here.

 

“True love is not about self, it’s about the other person. It’s about mankind, it’s about the world around you. It’s about loving and loving and loving. And I think marriage is the perfect embodiment of expressing that love.”

 

“As long as they’re not harming me…who has a right to challenge their right to their choices?”

 

“[My father’s second marriage, to a man] has been infinitely more fulfilling, more harmonious, more authentic, more of a model to all of us kids of what marriage should really be.”

 

“Now that I am legally married, all the benefits and wonderful things that have happened in my life around marriage, not just the ceremony but all the legal things that I get to participate in. I want that to happen for everybody.”

PFAW Foundation

Minnesota fighting the voting rights battle on multiple fronts

Minnesota is currently fighting voting rights battles on multiple fronts, including voter ID and same-day registration.

The voter ID battle began last session when the state legislature passed SF 509, legislation requiring photo ID. Following Governor Dayton’s veto, supporters vowed to carry on. Now a voter ID constitutional amendment (SF 1577) is making its way through the Senate. Yesterday it passed the Finance Committee and will next go to the Rules Committee.

Minnesota Public Radio:

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure today by a [party-line] vote of 9 - 6, sending it next to the Rules Committee. State officials estimate that local governments would have to spend $104,000 to place the question on the statewide ballot this fall. If it passes, they estimate first-year local costs at between $8.3 million and $23.3 million, depending on whether new electronic poll books are purchased. Finance Chair Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said Minnesota Management and Budget couldn't pin down the exact cost because lawmakers would still have to work out the details of the ID requirement during the 2013 session.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has suggested a possible compromise:

The proposed legislative fix of state election law would incorporate "electronic poll books," technology that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has advocated as a less-expensive alternative to a state-issued voter ID card.

Ritchie, a Democrat, appeared recently before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the benefits of the system, which would allow election officials to look up existing drivers' license photos or to take new photos of each voter up at the polling place.

"It doesn't disrupt absentee voting, or voting by service personnel overseas," he said. "It doesn't disrupt our voter registration system, our same-day registration system. It doesn't disenfranchise anybody."

Though its traction is yet unclear.

Republicans in the House and Senate passed a voter ID requirement last year, but Dayton vetoed it. State Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, a sponsor of last year's bill, said he has been working with the governor and the secretary of state this session on an updated version. Howe said electronic poll books would help achieve the goal of proper voter identification.

"I can't speak to whether this does anything on the constitutional amendment for photo ID," Howe said. "But I can tell you that I personally, along with many of my colleagues, want to see things done as much as we can legislatively."

[Side note: According to ALEC Exposed, Senator Howe is an ALEC member.]

In other news, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, joined by the Minnesota Freedom Council and Representative Sondra Erickson (another ALEC member), has filed a lawsuit that could greatly impact the state’s same-day registration system. The plaintiffs contend that same-day registrants should face the same eligibility checks faced by advance registrants, and their votes should not be counted until their eligibility is verified.

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction. The fact is that same-day registration increases voter turnout and is good for democracy.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Ohio University Students Standing on the Side of Love

I left Ohio University almost eight years ago, but I’ve found that my work life and my college life still have something in common. That was true this morning when I came across this article in the Athens News.

Ratio Christi, a student organization, brought author and American Family Radio host Frank Turek to campus for a book talk on his I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Turek and his other book, Correct, Not Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone, are no stranger to People For the American Way; we’ve written about them on our Right Wing Watch blog.

Turek’s hit parade includes:

Recognizing that radical record, OU students took a stand against Turek’s extreme agenda:

About 25 members and supporters of OU's LGBTQ student organization, Open Doors, held signs that read "Standing On The Side Of Love" outside of Baker Ballroom in protest.

Ratio Christi president Josh Welch said, "We respect the right of people to protest, and we hope that they respect our rights too."

The Rev. Evan Young, the campus minister at University Campus Ministries and the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, said that he took part in the silent protest in opposition to the views expressed in Turek's other book, "Correct, Not Politically Correct; How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone."

"As a longtime advocate and ally for the LGBTQ community here at Ohio University and in Athens and in southeastern Ohio," Young said, "I feel like when that community finds itself threatened with being pushed to the margins, finds itself facing the message of hate or the purveyor of hate against them, my place is with them. I stand with them."

The banner under which Reverend Young and the students protested, Standing on the Side of Love, is a public advocacy campaign sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association.

This is a time of great hope and possibility, yet our communities are threatened by the increased prevalence of acts motivated by fear and hate.

No one should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence because of their identities.

In public debates over immigration, LGBT rights, and more, religious people stand on the side of love and call for respect, inclusion, and compassion.

PFAW has often found itself standing on the side of love with UUA and other allied organizations in defense of LGBT Equality and other civil rights issues. And we certainly stand with these students in calling attention to a hard line anti-gay activist who closely works with ultraconservative groups like the Oak Initiative and the American Family Association.

PFAW

Using 'Religious Liberty' to Attack Obama, Women's Health

Attacking President Obama for his supposed “hostility” to religious liberty is the tactic du jour for congressional Republicans, according to a new piece in the Huffington Post by PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery.

After a widely-mocked hearing before the House Oversight Committee on contraceptive coverage, conservatives testifying before the Judiciary Committee continued to claim that the Obama Administration’s compromise on contraceptive coverage is not sufficient – and even if were, the Administration couldn’t be trusted to actually carry it out.

But many of their arguments relied on narrow definitions of the beginning of life that are at odds with medical standards and even with the rest of the religious community:

The arguments from Republican members and their witnesses boiled down to three main claims: the regulations requiring contraception coverage are unconstitutional burdens on religious organizations; the compromise to prevent religious organizations from having to pay for contraceptive coverage is only "an accounting gimmick" that does not resolve any of the moral or religious liberty issues; and the Obama administration has proven itself hostile to religious liberty and cannot be trusted to follow through on its promised accommodation.

...

Several Democratic members pointedly noted that Lori was not speaking for all Catholic leaders, placing into the record positive statements about the proposed compromise from the Catholic Health Association, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and other Catholic groups. Meanwhile, outside the hearing, other Catholic voices challenged the credibility of the bishops' religious liberty alarmism.

Others cited fallacious examples to attempt to bolster their claim of lacking religious accomodation.

Also on hand: more nonsensical analogies to join Bishop Lori's previous testimony that the regulations were akin to forcing a Jewish deli to serve pork. Committee Chair Lamar Smith asked whether the government could force people to drink red wine for its health benefits. (As Rep. Zoe Lofgren noted, no one is being forced to use birth control.) Religious Right favorite Rep. Steve King lamented that in the past Christians had "submitted" to Supreme Court decision on prayer in schools and the Griswold decision and the right to privacy "manufactured" by the Supreme Court.

The piece goes on to discuss how religious liberty does require some accommodation of religious beliefs, and striking an appropriate balance is a delicate task. But whatever the outcome, Montgomery notes, the courts will evaluate the regulation of competing interests, and “religious liberty in America will survive.” You can read the entire article here.

PFAW

Fighting For Fair and Just Courts

Americans look to our courts as a place where they can protect their rights, where giant corporate interests won't be favored as they so often are in other parts of society. Courts make sure that we are protected from businesses that market dangerously defective products, from unprincipled companies that cheat their customers, from predatory lenders that add to the misery of the already vulnerable, and from lawless employers who increase their profits by illegally paying women less.

In cases like these and so many more, individuals are often facing far more powerful individuals and companies, and they rely on a functioning court system to make sure they have justice.

That system is what is at risk when Senate Republicans routinely obstruct the judicial confirmation process. With our nation facing the worst sustained courtroom vacancy crisis in over thirty years, Americans are finding it harder and harder to have their day in court.

Politico reports that Senate Democrats are planning on ramping up the pressure on the GOP later this month.

Once the Senate tries to pass the transportation bill next week, Reid will determine his next steps on judicial nominations. If a deal can be reached quickly, it's possible that a judicial fight could be averted.

Otherwise, Reid told McConnell, he would file a procedural motion to end debate on 14 judicial nominees who have been approved by wide margins by the Senate Judiciary Committee. As of earlier this week, McConnell had offered to give consent on only three of the judges, sources say.

The Senate Judiciary Committee easily approved 14 nominations last year that are still outstanding. They include nominees for federal courts in California, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington state and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Thirteen of the 14 were approved unanimously. ...

Democrats say Obama's nominees have been forced to wait five times longer than Bush's judicial nominees were after receiving Judiciary Committee approval. Of the 20 nominees awaiting Senate action, 11 would fill vacancies considered "emergencies" by the judiciary.

While Politico elsewhere in the article frames this as part of what it dismissively calls "the culture war," what's at stake is the fundamental idea that we can all get a fair hearing in a court of law. All the rights in the world mean little if we don't have an effectively functioning judicial branch to enforce them.

PFAW

Senate Rejects Blunt Amendment, Romney Disappointed?

In a 51-48 vote today, the Senate rejected an amendment to the transportation bill by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt that would have allowed employers to deny their employees health insurance coverage for any treatment for any reason.

“The Blunt amendment was not only astoundingly bad public policy, it represented a fundamental misreading of the First Amendment. If it became law, it would have put working Americans – regardless of their religious beliefs – at the mercy of the religious beliefs of their employers. That’s not religious liberty – in fact, it’s exactly the opposite,” said PFAW president Michael Keegan in a statement released earlier today.

The extremity of this amendment wasn’t lost on every member of the GOP. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted against the amendment, and even major presidential contender Mitt Romney opposed the bill:

“I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

But of course, after remembering that perpetuating the War on Women is one of the GOP’s primary tactics this year, he reversed course in record time:

“Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply — misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment.”

The American people, and in particular the 20 million American Women whose reproductive health coverage would have been jeopardized by the Blunt Amendment, are quickly losing patience for the type of brazen politicking that puts pandering to the extreme right-wing over the legitimate needs of the country.

PFAW

YEO Network Member Tells His Story on Rock Center

People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network supports the work of over 600 young, progressive elected officials around the country. One of them, 24-year-old Ithaca, New York mayor Svante Myrick told his story on NBC’s Rock Center last night:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Featured along with Mayor Myrick are two of his fellow YEO Network members – who are also his roommates: City Councilmember Eddie Rooker and County Legislator Nate Shinagawa.
 

 

PFAW Foundation

Senate GOP - "Ignore What We Said Before"

A number of U.S. senators have been expressing their deep concern about the damage being done to our nation by GOP partisan obstruction of judicial nominees. Yesterday, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico pointed out that when Republicans controlled the White House and Senate, they were demanding floor votes for any nominee clearing the Judiciary Committee:

The arguments my colleagues and I make today—that judicial nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee deserve a vote by the full Senate—are the same arguments my Republican colleagues made when President Bush's nominees were held up by a Democratic minority.

Of course, when Bush was president, Democrats blocked only the most extreme circuit court nominees, a handful of nominees whose elevation to the nation's federal appellate courts could do grave damage to our country. In contrast, Republicans are obstructing every single one of President Obama's nominees – even district court nominees with unanimous committee support.

What we are seeing from Senate Republicans is not a policy based on principle, but one based solely on partisan interests. Unfortunately, it is putting our nation's courts at risk and denying justice to millions of Americans.

PFAW

Senate Examines NDAA

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Due Process Guarantee Act: Banning Indefinite Detention of Americans,” which shed light on controversial provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA).

That act, signed into law on December 31, 2011, codified some of the most extreme abuses of civil liberties that have been pursued following the initiation of the ‘War on Terror,’ the actions of which, under the current administration, are now engaged under the title, ‘Overseas Contingency Operations.’ The most striking provision of the NDAA affirmed a broad interpretation of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (2001) and stated that the executive has the power to detain anyone “who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities … without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF 2001],” which many interpret would permit even the indefinite detention of American citizens.

Although the current executive branch has pledged to not act upon these powers with respect to American citizens – President Obama signed the law with an adjoining statement, declaring, “my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens” – the potential for future administrations to engage in such clearly unconstitutional behavior, or for the Obama Administration to simply change its mind, is a danger that all Americans should be wary of.

Troubled by these possibilities, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the ‘Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011’ just hours after the final version of the NDAA was approved by the Senate. The bill seeks to amend the United States Code affected by the NDAA, effectively barring the executive from utilizing indefinite detention on American citizens without express approval from Congress to do so.

The hearing today regarded this remedial act; and there were fireworks to say the least.

Senator Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and is the author of the bill, repeatedly called into question the effectiveness of the provisions in question. Alluding to her past experiences on the Intelligence Committee, Feinstein echoed the concerns of leaders of intelligence and domestic crime fighting agencies who have expressed their disagreement with the infringement of the Armed Forces into domestic security concerns.

Senator Patrick Leahy, before passing the gavel to Senator Feinstein to chair the session, spoke more broadly about the practice of indefinite detention in his opening statement, stating, “A regime of indefinite detention degrades the credibility of this great Nation around the globe, particularly when we criticize other governments for engaging in such conduct.”

The most heated portion of the hearing arose when Senator Al Franken objected to the testimony of Steven G. Bradbury, a former Bush Administration appointee invited by Senate Republicans to testify in favor of the indefinite detention provisions. Franken alluded to the ‘enhanced interrogation’ memos (more accurately called torture memos) that Bradbury authored – which were the subject of a Justice Department probe that concluded by seriously questioning the legal work of Bradbury and others - and stated, “it’s very difficult for me, frankly, to rely on your legal opinion today.”

To ensure that future generations of Americans are not subject to indefinite detention without charge or trial, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Hamdi Supreme Court decision in 2004, please contact your local Representative and Senators to express your opposition to the NDAA, and encourage them to co-sponsor legislation to make sure the law reflects our Constitution’s most essential values. ( H.R. 36702 in the House; S. 2003 in the Senate).

PFAW