Saturday, July 21, 2007

Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

The United States ConstitutionThere is a lot of buzz going around about how George W. Bush's new Executive Order is going to allow him to seize the property of anyone who protests against the war.

This is not the real problem with the Order, as I will show. The fact that this violates the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution is the real problem that people should be up in arms about.

First of all I'd like to defuse a bit of the hysteria by pointing out that while it does say in Section 1, a, i, B "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people", it should be perfectly clear that this is a sub-condition of what is clearly listed in Section 1, a, i, which reads "to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of".

To read the condition as a whole, we would have the following:
Any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.
So unless you are committing or pose a significant risk of committing an act or acts of violence in order to undermine the Iraq war effort, this doesn't apply to you. It's a simple matter not only of context, but of simply reading the whole sentence.

With that cleared up, we come to the most important point. The violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Bush's Executive Order effectively allows him to bypass this and deprive anyone of their property without due process of law. This blatant violation of one of our most basic rights laid out in the Bill of Rights is what people should be up in arms about. And yet it seems that everyone is so caught up with the idea that Bush can use this against war protesters that they completely miss the point that he has just blatantly violated the Fifth Amendment rights of every US citizen.

With that serious point clarified, another point I'd like to address is that of the "State of National Emergency" mentioned several times. "national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004."

Under The National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651) (effective September 14th, 1976), we see that States of National Emergency expire after 1 year if the President does not explicitly extend them before 90 days prior to the anniversary of the State of National Emergency declaration.

That would mean that this current state of Emergency would have been in effect for well over 4 years now, having been extended by the President 4 times already and will be up for expiration again around the end of February 2008, at which time the President may choose to further extend it barring the Congress previously choosing to terminate it.

I don't see any set limit on how long the President can continue extending them aside from Congress explicitly voting to end the State of Emergency. Congress must meet every 6 months after the declaration to vote on whether or not the state of National Emergency should persist.

I mention this only because I was a bit shocked to realize that we've been under a state of National Emergency for the past several years now and had never before realized the frequency and duration of such declarations or the scope of their powers.


Anonymous said...

I can't help but think that in the early decades of this nation, an Executive Order like this would have caused a general uprising and blood in the streets.

JStressman said...

I couldn't agree more.

Our founding fathers took these issues as matters of life and death. We have grown so spoiled and complacent by the rights they fought and died for that we barely grumble as they're stripped away.

As long as the populace is entertained and has a feeling that they're not being personally affected yet, while remaining contentedly distracted from the unpleasant reality of things... there will be no uprising.

This same strategy was used in Rome. When the people were near a revolt, the Roman Empire turned to the coliseums and huge spectacles of bloodshed of both man and beast.

Sadly, as bad as it's gotten, I think there's plenty worse to come before the American people would dare to wake from its SUV, soccer mom and Sports Center slumber and address the reality of the government machine and the extent of the loss of our fundamental rights and freedoms etc.

JStressman said...

I thought I'd throw in an additional link as an illustration of people completely missing the point of this Executive Order, misunderstanding their use and scope etc...

The problem here is not in the complete misunderstanding of the order's intention, but in the fact that it falls for the hype going around and misses the very important matter of the violation of people's 5th Amendment Rights.

Someone in the comments also makes the assertion that no Executive Order can hold the weight of law, which also is not true. Congress feasibly holds the ability to overrule the President, but this is sometimes as good as impossible.

I'd suggest people do some actual research on Executive Orders, Checks and Balances in the US Government between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches and maybe even to actually read the US Constitution, Bill of Rights and the rest of the Amendments and become a bit more familiar with how things run, and what are some of the most fundamental rights we have that we should first and foremost guard.