Journal of the San Juan Islands


A boiling frog and the Bill of Rights | Letters

June 7, 2014 · Updated 10:49 AM

There is an apparent widespread lack of concern, much less resistance, to the abuses to the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution by the administrations of former President George W. Bush and the current President Barak Obama.

The lack of concern reminds us of the anecdote of the boiling frog. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, the frog will jump out, but if placed in cold water that is heated slowly, the frog will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012 exemplifies the complicity of all three branches of the federal government in the slow erosion of the Bill of Rights.

President Obama signed the annual NDAA on Dec. 31, 2011, after passage by both houses of congress and with the yes votes of our senators Cantwell and Murray, and representative Larsen.

Section 1021 of the NDAA was, and is, widely interpreted to allow the military to detain United States citizens indefinitely without charge or trial on mere suspicions of ties to terrorism. The provision remains in the NDAA of 2013 and 2014.

In response to the lawsuit filed by journalist Christopher Hedges and others, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled on May 16, 2012, that NDAA Section 1021 was unconstitutional, violating both the plaintiffs’ free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

Judge Forrest wrote, “Courts must safeguard core constitutional rights.”

The Obama administration appealed this decision. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Forrest’s permanent injunction July 17, 2013, thereby reinstating the indefinite detention powers of the NDAA, not on the merits of the case, but because the plaintiffs lacked legal standing.

Appealed to the Supreme Court, the suit ended on April 30, 2014, when the court denied hearing the case, without comment.

In a statement about the end result, plaintiff Tangerine Bolen wrote, “If the outcome of this lawsuit does not cement the fact that the courts will not defend the Constitution, nor our rights with it, there is little more evidence to be presented.”

Friends of the Constitution Steering Committee, San Juan Island


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