Some things are unforgivable in a democracy. A bill moving through Congress, authorizing the military to imprison American citizens indefinitely, without a trial or hearing, ranks right at the top of that list.
I know—I lived through it on the Patriot Act. When Congress decided to squelch the truth about the CIA’s advance warnings about 9/11 and the existence of a comprehensive peace option with Iraq, as the CIA’s chief Asset covering Iraq, I became an overnight threat. To protect their cover-up scheme, I got locked in federal prison inside Carswell Air Force Base, while the Justice Department battled to detain me “indefinitely” up to 10 years, without a hearing or guilty plea. Worst yet, they demanded the right to forcibly drug me with Haldol, Ativan and Prozac, in a violent effort to chemically lobotomize the truth about 9/11 and Iraqi Pre-War Intelligence.
Critically, because my legal case was controlled by civilian Courts, my Defense had a forum to fight back. The Judge was an independent arbiter. And that made all the difference. If this law on military detentions had been active, my situation would have been hopeless. The Patriot Act was bad enough. Mercifully, Chief Justice Michael B. Mukasey is a preeminent legal scholar who recognized the greater impact of my case. Even so, he faced a terrible choice —declaring me “incompetent to stand trial,” so my case could be killed—or creating dangerous legal precedents tied to secret charges, secret evidence, secret grand jury testimony and indefinite detention—from the Patriot Act’s arsenal of weapons against truth tellers—that would impact all defendants in the U.S. Courts.
It was a hideous choice—The judicial farce was more ugly because it stamped me a “religious maniac” for believing in God—a ludicrous argument. It lined up beautifully, however, with Congress’ desire to bastardize the “incompetence” of Assets engaged in Pre-War Intelligence. Anything to escape responsibility for their own poor decision making.
To this day, it scorches my heart with rage and betrayal. It was unforgivable on so many levels.
And it had nothing to do with fighting terrorism. This was about fighting truth—and protecting powerful leaders in Washington determined to glorify themselves with phony patriotism and media fireworks in the War on Terrorism—a fantasy if there was one.
Those of us with the facts at our fingertips, who could expose leadership fraud and deceptions, had to be destroyed. I had three strikes against me. First off, I had personal knowledge of the CIA’s advance warnings about 9/11, and how Republican leaders thwarted efforts to preempt the attack. Secondly, I had direct knowledge of Iraq’s contributions to the 9/11 investigation, and how Republican leaders rejected financial documents on early Al Qaeda figures like Ramzi Youssef and Sheikh Abdul Rahmon of Egypt and Sheikh al Zawahiri —who replaced Osama bin Laden as Al Qaeda’s leader. That would have shut down the financial pipeline for terrorism, if Washington cared about results. Finally, my team had successfully negotiated a peace framework with Baghdad that would have achieved all objectives in Iraq without firing a shot.
Oh I was a threat to the Washington elite, no doubt. Without the Patriot Act, the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq would have failed. Given normal due process, I would have shouted truth from the rooftops and exposed them all.
Let’s not mince words. Members of Congress who support laws like the Patriot Act and Military Detentions fear the American people deeply. They hate what America stands for. Above all they fear exposure of their mediocrity as our leaders. They are desperate to hide their leadership failures. And so they commit Treason against us— savaging the liberties enshrined in our Constitution to safeguard their access to power, weakening our ability to challenge them openly, building a society of fear.
They ply us with buzzwords—like “anti-terrorism” and “national security.” But they are the greatest threat facing our nation today. They are traitors among us.
Terrorism is a buzz-word to quiet outrage over this shredding of the Constitution. Most Americans don’t understand that the Patriot Act has expanded the scope of terrorism to cover any free political speech that challenges Institutions of Authority. Acts of violence are not necessary. The possibility that free speech could weaken public trust in leadership qualifies as the New Sedition. Any political speech that provokes the People to think and question authority can be squashed as a threat to political control.
I was no Traitor. My whole life was dedicated to non-violence. My bona fides in anti-terrorism were the best anywhere. I gave advance warning about the 9/11 attack, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, and the 1993 World Trade Center attack. When the FBI cracked open my computer, they found proof that my team had run one of the very first investigations of Osama bin Laden in 1998, before the Dar es Salaam/Nairobi bombings. I started negotiations for the Lockerbie Trial with Libya, and preliminary talks on resuming weapons inspections in Iraq.
I was a very real threat, however. I was guilty of possessing inconvenient knowledge powerful enough to persuade voters to throw a lot of deceptive politicians out of Congress.
Military detentions would push America farther into the abyss. First, it eliminates the need for charges against political defendants altogether. And secondly, it transfers decisions about a defendant’s fate away from the oversight of a civilian Judge to a military Sentry and base commander. It’s a complete negation of the Courts.
At a practical level, there are consequences that Americans would never dream possible:
• There’s no requirement for Military Officers to acknowledge that a prison exists inside a military base. Nor can Military officers be compelled to identify individuals who might be detained on the base.
• There’s no guarantee an attorney would be assigned to the accused. Indeed, the Sentry and Commanding Officer would have full authority, individually, to decide whether attorney visits shall be allowed at all. Access to an attorney would be a matter of military discretion, including frequency and duration. The Military Commander or sentry could decide to prohibit an attorney from entering the base altogether, without specifying a reason.
This must be underscored. Civilian Judges provide a fail-safe for defendants under military auspices. Under the proposed law, that protection would be removed. The Commanding Officer of the military base would assume full authority of the Court. The accused inmate would have nowhere to protest any aspect of the detention, or to move towards resolution.
• Since the military alone decides who enters the base, the Sentry would have the power to reject visits by Family or Journalists, if they so choose.
• In straight violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, accused civilians would be denied the right to petition for bail
• Military prisoners might have limited rights to send letters or make phone calls to family or attorneys, at the discretion of the Commanding Officer. The military would have the right to keep a defendant totally incommunicado from the world.
• An accused person would have no automatic rights to recreation outside of the cell. Prisoners could be locked in a 10 X 12 room 24-7, and denied the rights to exercise for one hour in a prison yard. That would be “indefinite,” too.
• Like Bradley Manning, they could be forced to sleep almost naked with the lights on, under 24 hour surveillance, even in the absence of suicide threats.
Don’t bother arguing about it. One of the high points of my legal drama occurred when my fantastic and beloved Uncle Ted Lindauer—a family member— who happened to have 40 years of senior legal experience— jumped into my legal fray in a Herculean effort to restore my freedom.
Three Times Tenacious Uncle Ted Drove 700 Miles (1,000 kms) in Each Direction—from southern Illinois to Fort Worth, Texas. He carried proper identification and proof of his legal standing. He was registered on my visitor’s list, and prison authorities understood that he was functioning as Co-Counsel for my Defense.
On the first and second visits, Ted Lindauer arrived on the weekend during normal visiting hours. Nevertheless, the Sentry swore up and down that there was no prison inside Carswell Air Force Base, and I was not an inmate—
Horrified, Ted Lindauer requested to speak with the Commanding Officer on duty.
Confronted with letters mailed from the prison and Court documents signed by Judge Mukasey, nevertheless, the Sentry and Commanding Officer refused to back down. Both stubbornly denied that I was housed anywhere on their military base.
On the second visit, the Sentry and Commanding Officer had a new excuse. Yeah, there was a prison on Carswell Air Force Base. But there were no visiting hours on weekends. Other prison families stood close by. One after the other, the sentry granted them access to the base to visit their relatives detained at the prison. Yet when Ted Lindauer, a 70 year old man with silver hair, stepped forward, the sentry guard refused.
Ted was furious. He warned the Sentry that my family knows some Generals, too! He insisted on the sanctity of my rights to attorney access, and promised to file a complaint with Judge Mukasey to compel the military to allow this attorney visit to occur.
Ted swore that he would return with U.S. Marshals. And by God, he was coming onto that base.
Thankfully, there was a civilian Judge to back him up. Judge Mukasey raised hell. On the third visit, he did indeed order U.S. Marshals to flank Ted Lindauer at the front gates of Carswell Air Force Base.
Judge Mukasey waited in his Chambers in New York ready to give the order. Only when U.S. Marshals stood before them, ready to forcibly enter the base, did Carswell back down. They stopped pretending there was no prison, that I was not an inmate, and granted my Uncle—a family member and attorney— access to his client.
It’s a cautionary tale. The military is not equipped to handle this type of responsibility. It flies against all of their structure. And it illustrates poignantly why a Civilian Judge is critical to protecting a defendant’s rights when the military has physical jurisdiction.
All of this was occurring at a critical juncture. At that moment, citing the Patriot Act, the Justice Department was arguing that I should be detained “indefinitely” up to 10 years—with no right to a trial or hearing. More horribly still, the Justice Department was demanding the right to forcibly drug me with Haldol—a rhinoceros tranquilizer—until I could be “cured” of knowing the real facts about Iraq and 9/11 and serious leadership failures in the War on Terrorism.
Witness had already told the FBI about my work as an Asset—and my team’s all important advance warnings about 9/11. The Feds understood very precisely what they were hiding—and who would be the losers in Washington, if my story was told.
Because I was denied the right to a hearing, I was blocked from providing that validation to the Court— or the American public—something Republicans on Capitol Hill feared desperately. Without a hearing, the Feds had free rein to savage my reputation with fantastic embellishments, portraying me as a religious maniac. (I freely confess that I have rock solid faith in God. However, the Justice Department played fast and loose with descriptions of my spirituality).
By the end of it, all of my Constitutional rights had been savagely violated— My 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion; my 4th Amendment protections against illegal searches of my home; my 5th Amendment rights not to be forcibly interrogated by surrogates for the prosecution; my 6th Amendment rights to a speedy trial by a jury of my peers, with the rights to face my accusers and rebut accusations in a public Court of law. The Justice Department even violated my 8th Amendment protections against threats of torture, (forcibly drugging definitely qualifies).
To this day, I cannot believe such abuse could be possible in the United States. I’m a fighter, and I could not stop them. All the Constitutional protections that should have saved me were stripped away. It horrifies me.
No American really understands the preciousness of Liberty until more powerful individuals in the government fight to take away those rights. Then in a blinding flash, you are awed by the magnificence of the Founding Fathers’ vision. What they gave us was extraordinary. It must be protected from tyrants like those in Congress today. They are tyrants who fear and despise us. There is no ambiguity. They are against us.
President Obama must veto this bill or confess his hypocrisy as a champion of liberty. And members of Congress who support military detentions or the Patriot Act must be targeted for defeat in 2012.
They are the greatest threats facing this country today.
They are traitors to freedom. They are Enemies of the Constitution. And they deserve to be branded Enemies of the State.
Susan Lindauer is the author of Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq.