Jonathan Turley, a public interest lawyer at George Washington University, published a column in the Washington Post (“10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free,” January 13, 2012) that enumerated ten steps the United States has taken toward becoming an autocracy (i.e., rule by one person). The president now has the legal authority to:
1. Order the assassination of U.S. citizens;
2. Detain foreigners and U.S. citizens indefinitely;
3. Conduct warrantless searches;
4. Decide whether a person is tried in a federal or military court, i.e., arbitrary justice;
5. Rely on secret evidence in judicial proceedings;
6. Prevent the prosecution of U.S. citizens for war crimes;
7. Conduct secret judicial proceedings for those accused of terrorism;
8. Give companies that assist in conducting warrantless searches immunity from judicial review;
9. Authorize the continual monitoring of U.S. citizens;
10. Authorize extraordinary renditions;
These ten powers eviscerate the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of due process and move the United States dangerously close to tyranny.
Freedom entails vulnerability. I, for one, would rather die free than live under tyranny that allegedly protected me from terrorism, a threat from which no amount of surveillance, limits on freedom, and other authoritarian measures can assure. Such steps are always a bad bargain, offering the illusion of security in exchange for freedom and justice.