Could America Become a Presidential Military Dictatorship?

Bob Bauman
Legal Counsel for The Sovereign Society
March 17, 2010

I voted for John McCain for president, (did I have a choice?), but I’m wondering whether the senior senator from Arizona has taken leave of his constitutional senses.

Ten days ago, McCain and his might-have-been 2008 vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct), introduced a bill entitled the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.”

A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the United States based on suspected activity. Read the bill here and then continue reading…

The bill sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States. It does so by requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning.

But the bill makes no distinction between “U.S. persons,” (defined as green card holders or U.S. citizens) and non-U.S. persons. Any of them (of us) could be arrested by the military!

The McCain-Lieberman bill would require all of these “belligerents” to be coded as “high-value detainee[s]” to be held in military custody and interrogated for their intelligence value by a “High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team” established by the president.

Any suspected unprivileged enemy belligerents considered a “high-value detainee” shall not be provided with a Miranda warning.

More Power to the President

The bill directs the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a “high-value detainee” if he/she:

(1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad;
(2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities;
(3) has potential intelligence value;
(4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda or
(5) such other matters as the president considers appropriate.

In other words, President Obama, or any president afterwards, could order the military to arrest Americans within the United States as he sees fit!

A decision to dispatch U.S. troops to make arrests in the U.S. has few precedents in American history, outside the Civil War. That’s because both the Constitution and the laws like the Insurrection Act and the Posse Comitatus Act restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.

With the existing Bush-provided presidential legal powers, plus the radical powers suggested in the McCain-Lieberman bill, the president of the United States could well become a military dictator – and who would stop him? The military?

Talk about a “police state”!

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