The Chickens Come Home to Roost - Losing our Civil Rights - updated 5/24/10

Sheila Musaji

Posted May 21, 2010      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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The Chickens Come Home to Roost - Losing our Civil Rights

by Sheila Musaji

Note:  updates at bottom of page

When a 2004 Cornell University poll showed that nearly half of Americans thought it was reasonable to restrict the civil rights of American Muslims, the general population wasn’t particularly concerned.  After 9/11 people somehow thought it made sense to give up some freedom in the interest of safety.

As Americans (hyphenated in some way for everyone except the Native Americans) we all need to be concerned about everyone’s civil rights.  We need to heed the words of Benjamin Franklin:  Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

We need to heed these words because whenever we overlook injustice towards one group of people and allow ourselves to make excuses for that injustice, it is only a matter of time until the injustice will also affect us.

A recent article Airport tells faithful to take off turbans, veils notes that after an incident at Brisbane Airport, a “federal investigation has been launched into an edict by the company in charge of the airport’s security to demand passengers remove for security checks religious headwear, including turbans, veils and Jewish skull caps.  At least one international flight was delayed at the weekend when staff from the company, ISS Security, demanded 13 people of the Sikh religion remove their turbans and a Muslim woman to take off her face veil.”  ...  It is standard airport practice around the world that religious headwear is only removed after conventional screening methods raise an alarm.  But ISS employees yesterday said a directive was issued on Saturday demanding all passengers remove their religious headwear for security checks, regardless of whether there was any cause for suspicion.

This incident happened in Great Britain, not the U.S. but that gives little comfort as in this globalized world we live in the general prevalent attitudes of the populations of most Western countries can be gauged by such incidents.

Sikhs have had such experiences at American airports.  A Jewish Police Detective was prohibited from wearing head covering, and beard on the job in Nevada.  In New Jersey there is a constitutional discussion over whether or not Newark can dismiss two police officers who wear beards because of their Sunni Muslim beliefs.  A Muslim child has been asked to remove her hijab in an Oklahoma public school.  A civil rights lawsuit has been filed in New Jersey against an ordinance passed to restrict use of a Rabbi’s home for prayer services.  The Pentagon has sought citizens’ bank records without court orders. 

The first amendment protects our right to wear religiously mandated clothing and that should be the end of the discussion.  Limiting this right is only one small piece of a much larger trend towards limiting and even taking away the civil rights of all Americans.  It is just one step in dismantling the Constitution.

All of the examples I have just given affect only minority groups in the U.S. so the majority haven’t been too concerned.  However, the reality is that they affect us all.  Senators Specter and Leahy are attempting to get people’s attention and have introduced a bill to restore our right of Habeas Corpus.  This wouldn’t be necessary if we hadn’t already lost this right.  We now have warrantless domestic surveillance, the FBI’s “Library Awareness Program”,  secret evidence, and ethnic profiling, and there have been serious discussions about a national ID Card

Nowadays, states are usurping responsibilities that are rightfully those of their citizens. Western so-called democracies, in particular, are supposed to have governments that are servants of the people, whereas, in fact, the opposite is true. Under the guise of doing what’s best for us or ensuring our security, governments are exercising more and more control over our lives. And, tragically, we are facilitating this erosion of our own freedoms, mostly because we’re not even aware it’s happening.  Linda Heard

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 although supposedly aimed at “enemy combattants” has much wider implications as even Garrison Keillor has pointed out, and may also affect American citizens.

Also in 2006 it was announced that a subsidiary of Halliburton KBR was awarded a $385 million contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build detention centers in the U.S.  These centers might be used for immigration, or for disaster relief, or vaguely “… to support the rapid development of new programs.”  A good question might be WHY?

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act - H.R. 1955 was passed by a landslide vote (a bipartisan vote of 404-6) in the House of Representatives in October of 2007.  How many Americans are aware of this act or its provisions, or how it undermines their personal freedom, and even whether or not it along with other provisions might allow the imposition of martial law in the U.S.?

Why are all of these things being put in place, and why is the American public not up in arms?  As I said in a previous article on this act:

Most of these limitations on our freedoms as Americans including the loss of habeas corpus have come about as a result of the fear arising after 9/11.  ... If the neo-con pundits are to be believed, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11 because “they hate us for our freedom”, (rather than because of our Foreign Policy as OBL himself says).  If that were really the case, we would have nothing more to worry about because we have given up most of our freedoms without a fight.  We have allowed them to be taken away from us by political forces within our own country.  Because we have allowed ourselves to generalize from a real (and beatable enemy) al Qaeda to a generalized “enemy” (all Muslims - also known as Islamophobia) we have allowed for exceptions to our civil rights that will in the end take away the very freedoms that made this country great.  As an American Muslim who loves both Islam and the United States, I find this particularly tragic.

Americans need to get out their copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and study them.  It might also help to understand the direction we are going to read Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) report “The Constitution in Crisis” which details the civil rights and constitutional crisis that we are facing.  It might also help to read some of the articles in our article collection on Civil Rights and the Patriot Act

Do this, and I believe you will agree with David Michael Green that “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”.  And, I believe that we all have to take responsibility for what is happening, because it could not happen without our participation, even if that participation is “only” a matter not being informed or getting involved to defend the Constitution. 

And, as I said in a previous article on habeas corpus

Habeas Corpus, one of the foundations of all our rights as citizens of the United States has been for all practical purposes suspended by our government.  What is startling is how few Americans are speaking out against this.  Perhaps that is because our educational system is so poor that most students graduating from high school don’t even have a firm grasp of our Constitution and the principles upon which it is based.  And, those who accept this as something the government “needs to do” to protect us from the threat of “terrorism” should have taken Ben Franklin’s warning to heart:

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Habeas Corpus is to be found in article 1, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution - “habeas corpus n. Law A writ issued to bring a party before a court to prevent unlawful restraint. [

The basic premise behind habeas corpus is that you cannot be held against your will without just cause. To put it another way, you cannot be jailed if there are no charges against you. If you are being held, and you demand it, the courts must issue a writ of habeas corpus, which forces those holding you to answer as to why. If there is no good or compelling reason, the court must set you free. It is important to note that of all the civil liberties we take for granted today as a part of the Bill of Rights, the importance of habeas corpus is illustrated by the fact that it was the sole liberty thought important enough to be included in the original text of the Constitution."

from U.S. Constitution glossary

“The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus ... are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. ...[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. ...  “‘To bereave a man of life,’ says he, ‘or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore A MORE DANGEROUS ENGINE of arbitrary government.’‘’ [Capitals all Hamilton’s from the original.]  Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 84

“...freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.” - Thomas Jefferson

“The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus ... are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. ...The practices of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny.  Alexander Hamilton

Possibly the best statement that has been made in defense of habeas corpus is the following by Keith Olberman.  He sums up the dangers of our current situation beautifully. 


Olbermann: And lastly, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived… as people in fear.

And now—our rights and our freedoms in peril—we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid… of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy. For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

And lastly, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived… as people in fear.

And now—our rights and our freedoms in peril—we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid… of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before—and we have been here before led here—by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives—only to watch him use those Acts to jail newspaper editors.

American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote, about America.

We have been here, when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives—only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as “Hyphenated Americans,” most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.

American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said, about America.

And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9-0-6-6 was necessary to save American lives—only to watch him use that Order to imprison and pauperize 110-thousand Americans…

While his man-in-charge…

General DeWitt, told Congress: “It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen—he is still a Japanese.”

American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did—but for the choices they or their ancestors had made, about coming to America.

Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And each, was a betrayal of that for which the President who advocated them, claimed to be fighting.

Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased.

Many of the very people Wilson silenced, survived him, and… of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900-thousand votes… though his Presidential campaign was conducted entirely… from his jail cell.

And Roosevelt’s internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States, to the citizens of the United States, whose lives it ruined.

The most vital… the most urgent… the most inescapable of reasons.

In times of fright, we have been, only human.

We have let Roosevelt’s “fear of fear itself” overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said “the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass.”

We have accepted, that the only way to stop the terrorists, is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets, was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

Or substitute… the Japanese.

Or the Germans.

Or the Socialists.

Or the Anarchists.

Or the Immigrants.

Or the British.

Or the Aliens.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And, always, always… wrong.

“With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?”

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly—of course—the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously… was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But even within this history, we have not before codified, the poisoning of Habeas Corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital… the most urgent… the most inescapable of reasons.

And—again, Mr. Bush—all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done, to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that “the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values” and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens “Unlawful Enemy Combatants” and ship them somewhere—anywhere—but may now, if he so decides, declare you an “Unlawful Enemy Combatant” and ship you somewhere - anywhere.

And if you think this, hyperbole or hysteria… ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.

And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an “unlawful enemy combatant”—exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?

“These military commissions will provide a fair trial,” you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush. “In which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them.”

‘Presumed innocent,’ Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain “serious mental and physical trauma” in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

‘Access to an attorney,’ Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

‘Hearing all the evidence,’ Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies, that imperil us all.

“One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks,” told us yesterday… “said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America.”

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas Corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush… they would be “the beginning of the end of America.”

And did it even occur to you once sir—somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11—that with only a little further shift in this world we now know—just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died—-

Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a “competent tribunal” of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of “Unlawful Enemy Combatant” for… and convene a Military Commission to try… not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, sir, all of them—as always—wrong.

Joe Scarborough is next.

Good night, and good luck.


UPDATE 11/2008

The Center for Constitutional Rights notes:  “Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men were targeted solely based on race, country of origin, and religion in post-9/11 immigration sweeps with the knowledge of former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to a brief filed today with the Supreme Court by plaintiffs in Turkmen v. Ashcroft, Center for Constitutional Rights’s (CCR) class action challenge.”

UPDATE 6/2009

I have just posted an article Federally Mandated National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional which discusses in detail the controversy over this event.

UPDATE 3/2010

James Brovard notes that “Last September, a federal appeals court ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft could be personally sued for the unjustified incarceration of innocent people as “material witnesses” in the wake of 9/11.”  His article also lists a number of questionable cases.

UPDATE 4/28/2010

U.S. approves extra-judicial killing of an American citizen (one who was born in America) 

ACLU Letter Urges President Obama To Reject Targeted Killings Outside Conflict Zones

UPDATE 5/21/2010

This month has seen a lot written about civil rights by Constitutional Attorneys and others who have some understanding of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Perhaps the rest of us should be listening.

Glenn Greenwald has published two important articles on Civil Rights.  In the first New target of rights erosions: U.S. citizens he notes

A primary reason Bush and Cheney succeeded in their radical erosion of core liberties is because they focused their assault on non-citizens with foreign-sounding names, casting the appearance that none of what they were doing would ever affect the average American.  There were several exceptions to that tactic—the due-process-free imprisonment of Americans Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, the abuse of the “material witness” statute to detain American Muslims, the eavesdropping on Americans’ communications without warrants—but the vast bulk of the abuses were aimed at non-citizens.  That is now clearly changing.

The most recent liberty-abridging, Terrorism-justified controversies have focused on diluting the legal rights of American citizens (in part because the rights of non-citizens are largely gone already and there are none left to attack).  A bipartisan group from Congress sponsors legislation to strip Americans of their citizenship based on Terrorism accusations.  Barack Obama claims the right to assassinate Americans far from any battlefield and with no due process of any kind.  The Obama administration begins covertly abandoning long-standing Miranda protections for American suspects by vastly expanding what had long been a very narrow “public safety” exception, and now Eric Holder explicitly advocates legislation to codify that erosion.  John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduce legislation to bar all Terrorism suspects, including Americans arrested on U.S. soil, from being tried in civilian courts, and former Bush officials Bill Burck and Dana Perino—while noting (correctly) that Holder’s Miranda proposal constitutes a concession to the right-wing claim that Miranda is too restrictive—today demand that U.S. citizens accused of Terrorism and arrested on U.S. soil be treated as enemy combatants and thus denied even the most basic legal protections (including the right to be charged and have access to a lawyer).

Read the entire article for a lot of information and resources, and then read the second article published today, Obama wins the right to detain people with no habeas review

John W. Whitehead in the article Getting After the Devil: Obama and Civil Liberties notes

And now, under the guise of fighting the “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration wants Congress to allow law enforcement officials greater flexibility when it comes to issuing the Miranda warning (“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”) to terrorism suspects. Presently, under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule, if law enforcement agents believe a suspect has information that might reduce a substantial threat, they can wait to give the Miranda warning. Unfortunately, Attorney General Eric Holder wants to see this exception extended to all cases involving so-called terror suspects. This could easily be extrapolated to apply not only to foreign individuals but also to American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to speak out against controversial government policies with which they disagree.

This continual relaxing of the rules that protect our civil liberties will have far-reaching consequences on a populace that remains ignorant about their rights. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in its 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, the police can and often do take advantage of the fact that most citizens don’t know their rights. Thus, the Court held that police officers must advise a suspect of his/her civil rights once the suspect has been taken into custody.  There have been few exceptions to this rule over the last 40 years or so, and with good reason. However, if Congress gives the Obama administration the green light to scale back the Miranda rule, it would be yet another dangerous expansion of government power at the expense of citizens’ civil rights.

The lesson is this: once a free people allows the government inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny. Nor does it seem to matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm anymore, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.

In fact, the outlook for civil liberties is growing bleaker by the day. Increasingly, those on the left who once hailed Barack Obama as the antidote for restoring the numerous civil liberties that were lost or undermined as a result of Bush-era policies are finding themselves forced to acknowledge that America under Obama is not much of an improvement over what it was under his predecessor. For example, author Naomi Wolf, who repeatedly warned that America was headed toward a fascist totalitarianism form of government under George W. Bush, has now taken to issuing the same warning about Obama. In her book End of America (2007), Wolf argued that the American government under Bush was mimicking the regimes of despots such as Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. Under the Bush presidency, the country was characterized by, among other things, illegal surveillance, military detention of suspects (even American citizens) and paramilitary martial law. Thus, when asked in a March 2010 interview if her book, End of America, was still relevant under Obama, Wolf replied, “Unfortunately, it is more relevant. Bush legalized torture, but Obama is legalizing impunity. He promised to roll stuff back, but he is institutionalizing these things forever. It is terrifying and the left doesn’t seem to recognize it.”

It is not just those on the left who seem oblivious. Even in the face of outright corruption and incompetency on the part of our elected officials, Americans in general remain relatively gullible, eager to be persuaded that the government can solve the problems that plague us—whether it be terrorism, an economic depression, an environmental disaster or even a flu epidemic. Yet having bought into the false notion that the government can ensure not only our safety but our happiness and will take care of us from cradle to grave—that is, from daycare centers to nursing homes, we have in actuality allowed ourselves to be bridled and turned into slaves at the bidding of a government that cares little for our freedoms or our happiness.

CAIR just issued a press release FBI Visits Prompt Reminder of Legal Rights which notes

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said today that its offices nationwide are receiving an increasing number of reports of FBI agents, along with other law enforcement officers, visiting and interviewing American Muslims, particularly members of the Pakistani-American community.

These visits often include both FBI agents and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) officers, including Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials and local police or sheriff`s department officers. Reports to CAIR`s Los Angeles office indicate the FBI described these visits as “community outreach” visits.

In light of these reports, CAIR is taking the opportunity to remind American Muslims of their rights when visited by FBI/JTTF agents in their homes or in the workplace.

American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of every individual. All Americans have the constitutional right to due process and to be politically active.

If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Know Your Rights:

Understand that providing information to the FBI or any law enforcement officer, absent a subpoena, is strictly voluntary. You are not obligated under law to answer any questions from law enforcement officers other than providing them with an official identification card.
You may choose to have an attorney accompany or represent you for any interview or questioning. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney regarding the risks and benefits of being interviewed by law enforcement agents in your specific case. CAIR may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.

If FBI/JTTF agents show up at your home or workplace and do not have a search or arrest warrant, you have no obligation to let them in.

If they do have an arrest or search warrant, you can still exercise your right to remain silent. Comply with all directives and do not physically resist an officer. Be polite and respectful at all times. Remember that you retain the right to remain silent and do not have to comment or respond to any inquiries. You
also have the right to an attorney.

If an agent or officer says they have some questions for you, you have the right to not speak to them and/or you may tell the agents or officers that you will have your attorney contact them if they wish to speak to you. Again, CAIR may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.

Note that anything you say to an agent or officer can be used against you in a court of law, and lying to an agent or officer is a criminal offense.

Should you decide to speak to agents alone despite the risks, note that you may set the conditions of the interview, including choosing when and where the interview is to take place, having a third party present such as a family member or community leader, deciding which questions to answer, and refusing to sign any documents. You may cancel the interview at any time.

Be sure to get the names, agencies, badge numbers and business cards of ALL agents or officers.

Contact your attorney and/or CAIR to report the interview/incident and to discuss next steps. If you feel that your civil rights were violated, you may also file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. CAIR can help you with this process.

To file a civil rights complaint with CAIR, please visit:

More Resources:

1. “FBI Interview: Knowing the Law Can Protect You,” by Ahilan Arulanantham and Ranjana Natarajan. InFocus News, February 2007.
2. Video: “Got Rights: Protect yourself and your family at home and at the airport, ” by Muslim Advocates.
3. To file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, go to: DOJ Civil Rights Page.
[Please note: This above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you have any questions about the material herein or about a specific case, please consult with your attorney.]

This week, On Fox News, John Stossel discussed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and commented that “it’s time now to repeal” the Public Accommodation section, “because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won’t ever go to a place that’s racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I’ll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.”

And, U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday that he abhors racial discrimination, but suggested the federal government shouldn’t have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if the business owners don’t want to.

UPDATE 5/24/2010

John W. Whitehead, Along with Members of the Liberty and Security Committee, Voices Concerns Over Terrorist Expatriation Act
WASHINGTON, DC—John W. Whitehead, in conjunction with fellow members of the bipartisan Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee, has released a statement pointing out serious constitutional concerns with the Terrorist Expatriation Act of 2010, which was introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA). The proposed legislation would authorize the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone found to have provided “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations or engaged in, or purposefully or materially supported hostilities against the United States or against other nations directly supporting U.S. armed forces. In urging Congress to reject the proposed legislation, the 29 members of the committee joining the Statement Opposing the Terrorist Expatriation Act point out that citizenship is a fundamental constitutional right that cannot be taken away unless it was unlawfully obtained or voluntarily renounced.

The Statement Opposing the Terrorist Expatriation Act is available at

“This proposed legislation allowing the government to strip Americans of their citizenry undermines the very foundation of the U.S. Constitution,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This is one more step toward an authoritarian regime that will undermine all civil liberties.”

The Statement Opposing the Terrorist Expatriation Act states, in part:

“The Terrorist Expatriation Act raises several serious constitutional concerns. Moreover, there is no need for such a law. Whether they are American citizens or not, terrorism suspects can and should be prosecuted in court to the full extent of the law. Congress should reject such expatriation proposals as being both unnecessary and dangerous; unnecessary because existing laws already provide more than adequate penalties for U.S. citizens who engage in acts of terrorism; dangerous because such proposals would forever dilute one of our most fundamental constitutional rights.”

The Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee is made up of policy experts who represent the full political spectrum, including former members of Congress, former government, intelligence and military officials, academics and advocates. These members came together to express their concerns that Congress cannot and should not seek to strip protected constitutional rights. In addition, members point out that by incorporating existing laws on material support for terrorism, the bill also incorporates the constitutional flaws plaguing those laws. In particular, the material support statutes raise serious due process and First Amendment concerns.


A Constitutional Amendment to Ban Islam?, Sheila Musaji

American Muslims must defend the Constitution of the United States, Sheila Musaji

Are You Brainwashed? Seven Principles for Free Government, John W. Whitehead

Boumediene v. Bush: What the Supreme Court Decision Means, Andy Worthington’s_habeas_decision_means/

Bush and Habeas Corpus: Gutting the Constitution, John W. Whitehead

Bush Signs the Reichstag Fire Decree, Larisa Alexandrovna

The Chickens Come Home to Roost - Losing our Civil Rights, Sheila Musaji

Civil Liberty and the State: The Writ of Habeas Corpus, Richard M. Ebeling

Congressman Keith Ellison and the Qur’an, Sheila Musaji


Death of the great writ of liberty, Jennifer van Bergen

Detainees Deserve Court Trials, P. Sabin Willett

Chris Dodd’s fight to restore habeas corpus

The End of Habeas Corpus and the Belligerent Despot-in-Chief, Ralph Nader

The Flaws in the Military Commissions Act, Sen. Russell Feingold


Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2006

Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215 - 2006), Molly Ivins (on the detainee - or torture - bill and habeas corpus)

Junking habeas corpus, Greg Moses

Katrina, Walter and John: Has Anybody Here, Seen My Old Constitution?, Roderick T. Beaman

Lawyers Fight for Habeas Rights, Frida Berrigan

Now That You Could be Labeled an Enemy Combatant…, Heather Wokusch

Padilla and the Future of Habeas Corpus, Jacob Hornberger

Republicans Give In To Bush, Betray America, Thom Hartmann

Restoring Habeas Corpus, Geoffrey R. Stone

The Right of Habeas Corpus: A Truly Fundamental Human Right, Isaac M. McPhee

The State of the Nation: “I am afraid”, John W. Whitehead

Victory: U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Habeas Corpus Rights For Detainees, The Rutherford Institute

Why is habeas corpus important?, Josh Clark