Sanders Is One of Few Who Fought for Lost Right to Jury Trial

Updated on February 29, 2020
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In most recent Senate vote, Democratic primary candidates Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar voted in favor of detention provisions.

Despite current efforts to paint Bernie Sanders as a dangerous socialist who would send improperly indoctrinated Americans to gulags, the irony is that Sanders is one of the few US senators who strongly opposed the current law to allow the military to detain US citizens indefinitely, without charge or trial, if the executive branch ever claims they are "associated" with terrorism.

In the 2018 iteration of the NDAA bill, which again renewed the provisions, both senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar voted "yea," to pass the bill and all of its sections, including the indefinite military detention of US citizens. As vice president, Joe Biden was part of the administration that pushed for the provisions, which Obama signed into legislation.

Sanders has long taken a stand against the Constitution-shredding measure, the culmination of early Bush administration claims that the government could capture and hold US citizens as "enemy combatants" even when captured on American soil.

To be sure, when analyzed by his positions, which he has put forth consistently over 40 years, Sanders' mild form of socialism makes him more in line with FDR and the New Deal than Karl Marx.

Sanders advocates for capitalism with a strong social safety net and extensive social benefits, like subsidized college education, and a halt to tax breaks and write-offs which benefit primarily the wealthy. In Houston this month Sanders said, we can give "trillion dollar bail-outs to banks...that's socialism too, why can't we forgive all student debt?"

Sanders explicitly rejects the nationalization of private property, saying at Georgetown University in 2015:

"So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this: I don't believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal."

But interestingly, Sanders veers to the libertarian right and votes with the likes of Rand Paul on Constitutional issues. In 2012, voting against a president of his own party along with Paul and a few other senators, Sanders was one of the few who opposed the most blatant assault on the Constitution in its history, in the climate of fear which has reigned since 9/11.

Passed to utter silence in the major media, the NDAA Indefinite Military Detention of American Citizens, for the first time in American history, permanently stripped American citizens of their right to a jury trial if the government deemed they were "associated" with terrorist activity.

NDAA stands for the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill which mostly deals with the authorization of funds for the Pentagon and national security agencies.

In 2012 Sanders joined Paul, a stout critic of the law, and 28 other senators in voting for the Feinstein Amendment, which would have exempted US citizens from the fascistic measures written into the NDAA which were sought by the Obama administration.

The new provisions allowed the Executive Branch to unilaterally imprison American citizens without charge or trial, indefinitely, for the duration of "hostilities" in the War on Terror. All based on nothing more than the claims of the Executive Branch that one has been "associated" with terrorism.

It may come as a surprise to Americans who have been paying more attention to MMA's Conor McGregor and Beyonce that NDAA Indefinite Military Detention of US Citizens is now law.

Rand Paul Speaking on NDAA Indefinite Military Detention of US Citizens

To this day, the provisions are renewed every year. To this day, Sanders is one of the few, along with Rand Paul, who votes "no" on the bill regularly. In the last non-presidential election season in which presidential candidates were able to vote, 2018, both senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar voted "yea." reported:

"The proof that this bill does not expressly exempt U.S. citizens or those captured on U.S. soil is that amendments offered by Sen. Feinstein providing expressly for those exemptions were rejected."

Steve Mariotti for Huffington Post has written:

"In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with relatively little attention from the media―despite the freedoms it obliterated. The NDAA was enacted to empower the U.S. military to fight the war on terror. But buried in this law are two provisions (Sections 1021 and 1022) that authorize the indefinite military detention, without charge or trial, of any person labeled a “belligerent”―including an American citizen."

While almost all of the 67 senators who had voted for the 2012 Feinstein Amendment reversed course when the amendment excluding American citizens lost, and voted for the main NDAA bill, a few, including Sanders, Al Franken (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rand Paul voted against the entire bill.

The senators who reversed course told outraged constituents who pushed for Sixth Amendment rights that they did not want to hold up body armor and bullets for troops on the battlefield in the funding part of the bill.

Since the Pentagon is sitting on enough bullets and body armor to last for years, the senators added insult to injury. How stupid must the voters be to believe the soldiers were going to run out of bullets next week, or that their officers would leave them in the field without them, if the pork-larded NDAA did not pass tomorrow?

The ploy hid buckling on the Constitution in the guise of supporting the troops, even though the Constitution is the very first thing the troops are supposed to defend.

Thus Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist being painted as another Lenin, has done more to stand up for actual freedom and the Bill of Rights than almost every other senator.

In a letter to a Vermont constituent in 2012 Sanders wrote:

"Thank you for contacting me regarding indefinite detention and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013. I welcome the opportunity to discuss this important matter with you. I voted against S.1867, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which was signed into law at the end of last year. I did this in part because I had grave concerns that this legislation would change our detention laws in a way that would severely damage our system of justice. It gave the President – and all future presidents – the authority to indefinitely imprison people, without charge, without trial and without a habeas corpus hearing with full due process rights, and to try U.S. citizens or lawful residents by military commission instead of in federal courts."

Some very big powers in America seemed to want the indefinite detention provisions, as Obama, a Constitutional law professor, seemed somewhat embarrassed at fighting for it. An exasperated Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), who led the committee attempting to craft the exact language, pointed out inconveniently on the Senate floor that it was none other than Obama who wanted it to apply to American citizens.

Levin tells Senate it was Obama who wanted NDAA to apply to American citizens

Meanwhile then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney frothed at the mouth that "terrorists don't deserve a trial." But if there is no trial, with evidence and witnesses, how do we know who's a terrorist?

The states in the first Constitutional Convention made the Bill of Rights a condition of passing the Constitution. As learned men, the Founders knew the lessons of history. Foremost among these: Allow the government to imprison anyone for crimes against the state without a trial, and faster than you can say Jack Robinson, they will be imprisoning their political enemies and other inconvenient people.

The Founders had no kind view of human nature.

Thomas Jefferson said:

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."

The fascinating nexus in Sanders' positions and voting record is that, when it comes to certain issues, he resembles no one so much as Rand Paul. Like Paul, Sanders routinely votes against the annual NDAA, which automatically renews the provisions for the unconstitutional imprisonment of American citizens.

Like Paul, Sanders strongly opposes US interventions abroad.

Far more than most Republicans and even Democrats, who every year vote on NDAA, a round of applause is warranted for Sanders for being one of the few who did, and does, stand up for our rights, and freedom. Voters could send a resounding message that they take their rights seriously, by punishing Warren and Klobuchar for their yearly NDAA votes and rewarding Sanders for his opposition. (NDAA 2018 House vote, Senate vote)


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      5 months ago

      Agreed strongly with this: "Far more than most Republicans and even Democrats, who every year vote on NDAA, a round of applause is warranted for Sanders for being one of the few who did, and does, stand up for our rights, and freedom."

      It astounds me that this most offensive provision of the NDAA has been permitted to stand. It stands mostly because the majority of Americans either 1) Don't know about it or 2) Don't give a damn. Honestly, we, meaning Americans, need to pressure our senators going forward to get rid of it.

      Enjoyed the read Ralph.


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