Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”     Adam Smith

January 17, 2012

Romney Would Have Signed the NDAA; Trusts that President Obama “Would not abuse this Power”

by Stephen Littau

In last night’s debate, Gov. Mitt Romney said something quite incredible when asked if he would have signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

Yes I would have [signed the NDAA] and I do believe it’s appropriate to have the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country who are members of Al Qaeda. Look you have every right in this country to protest and to express your views on a wide range of issues but you don’t have a right to join a group that is challenged America and has threatened killing Americans, has killed Americans and has declared war against America. That’s treason. And in this country we have a right to take those people and put them in jail.

And I recognize in a setting where there are enemy combatants and some of them on our own soil that could possibly be abused. There are a lot of things that I think this president does wrong – lots of them. But I don’t think he’s going to abuse this power and I know that if I were president I would not abuse this power. And I could also tell you in my view, you have to choose people who have sufficient character not to abuse the power of the presidency and to make sure that we do not violate the Constitutional principles.

But let me tell you, people who join Al Qaeda are not entitled to the rights of due process under our normal legal code. They are entitled instead to be treated as enemy combatants.

There are so many problems with Gov. Romney’s answer but let’s start with the issue of treason. The Constitution actually deals with the issue of treason (one of the few crimes mentioned in the document) in Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Where in this section does it say anything about jailing alleged traitors without due process? From my reading of this, the bar for proving treason is quite high but at a very minimum requires a trial (as opposed to the president’s declaration someone is a traitor or “enemy combatant”).

Perhaps the bigger issue is Romney’s throwing out any notion of the rule of law and replacing it with the rule of men. We are supposed to trust the president, even the very president who he says has done “lots of things” wrong. The onus is on us to make sure the “right” person is elected so that this power isn’t ever abused and does not violate Constitutional principles rather than constrain him with the rule of law (i.e. the Constitution).

I’ve got some bad news for you Gov. Romney. I don’t believe you have “sufficient character not to abuse the power of the presidency.” Your very acknowledgement that you would have signed the NDAA proves that you cannot be trusted to defend the Constitution as your oath would require.

Related:
National Defense Authorization Act Passes Complete With Indefinite Detention Provisions
The Late David Nolan’s Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Fears One Step Closer to Being Realized

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