Last week Peter Van Buren, retired State Department officer, whistleblower, and author, asked six critical foreign policy questions that won’t be raised in the presidential debates. Van Buren writes that the “two candidates are stand-ins for Washington in general, a ‘war’ capital whose denizens work and argue, sometimes fiercely, from within a remarkably limited range of options.” While neither the media will ask nor will the candidates answer, I think it’s important to explore these questions.
The second question Van Buren asked was whether or not we have “we walked away from the Constitution?” Considering the fact that after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, we have used the so-called War on Terror to justify trampling on the Constitution, save the 2nd Amendment, it’s difficult to argue that we haven’t. From indefinite detention to warrantless wiretaps, constitutional liberties have been rapidly eroded with the complicity of the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Oval Office, and worst of all the American people.
The passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, in the weeks after 9/11, was our first dramatic step away from the Constitution. Subsequent reauthorizations of the legislation in 2006, 2010, and 2011, we were given the opportunities to walk back towards the Constitution. But, despite a near legislative defeat in 2011, the political will to repeal this Constitutional scourge has been absent less members of Congress appearing soft on terror.
The warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency during the program codenamed Stellar Wind, and the immunity granted to the telecomm companies who assisted in spying on Americans are other examples of our decent into a surveillance state. From the so-call extraordinary renditions and the torture of detainees to the legal black hole that was Guantanamo Bay, civil liberties were chipped away.
Probably the most extraordinary example of walking away from the Constitution was the extrajudicial killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi. President Obama ordered the assassination of an American citizen without any legal process whatsoever. This radical expansion of executive power and complete contempt in the rule of law is just the final step in a long walk away from the Constitution. How far we will continue to go is anyone’s guess.