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Maybe next time it’s Arab Americans who will be interned by U.S. gov’t — Rand Paul launches filibuster

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I just watched an hour Rand Paul’s filibuster of the Patriot Act, and there have been some inspiring moments.

The senator said that democracies are no inherent safeguard against depredations on people’s rights. He alluded to Nazi Germany as a case where people had elevated fascists. He cited the case of the late Richard Jewell falsely accused of planting bombs at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and said that if Jewell had been black, he would have been killed by a mob.

He said that the people had approved of the internment of the Japanese during World War II, and the denial of the right of habeas corpus to young people just because their grandparent was Japanese. And that could happen again, he said.

“Maybe next time it’s Arab Americans.”

“The Bill of Rights was not written for the Prom queen,” he went on. “The Bill of Rights is for minorities… it is for those with unpopular opinions.”

The massive collection of our private data is similar, he said, to “writs of assistance,” executed by British soldiers that were one cause of the Revolutionary War. These writs were served on American households without those households needing to be named. And warrants for meta-data also don’t name individuals. But the Bill of Rights was composed to protect individuals. And on the basis of meta-data people have been killed, so this should concern us all.

“This ought to scare you too,” he said: for the first five years the government obtained private records merely by presidential request, not even under the Patriot Act. “The government is not paying attention to the rule of law.”

Paul is speaking without notes but leafing through a briefcase jammed with papers and citing friends across the aisle including Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders. I gather Wyden has now joined him to assist the filibuster. I urge you to watch and lend support to this valiant effort to preserve freedom and privacy.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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31 Responses

  1. zaid on May 20, 2015, 4:56 pm

    this guy is probably better than hillary

    • Krauss on May 21, 2015, 2:54 am

      There was an interesting recent discussion between Kaus and Robert Wright @ blogginheads on Hillary.

      Kaus is a political heretic in many ways, and he often has interesting stuff to say. He says that nobody trusts Hillary and that she is an amorphous blob, bending to whatever wind is blowing. Everything about her is calculated, poll-tested. The point is power, the path is irrelevant.

      Rand is many things, but he isn’t Hillary. I would still vote for Hillary on economic/social issues but seeing a politician with principles is hopefuly for once (even if Rand’s pandering to the lobby is disgusting and his economic program is a neoliberal shock doctrine).

      I seriously hope Bernie Sanders will win in the primaries. Yeah he’s terrible on Israel(so is Warren) but at least we can hope for genuine progress on the domestic front. I actually think Sanders will be better on Israel than Hillary, precisely because his Jewishness gives him a shield. That’s how ethnic politics works and Israel politics is nothing but ethnic politics (sorry Chomsky, nothing about capitalism).

      • CigarGod on May 21, 2015, 8:31 am

        Ain’t never gonna happen. The machine has already been deployed to every state…and every state’s democratic party executive leadership. They are in lock step. Hillary is the annointed. Only a fatal mis-step could change things now.

      • mohandeer on May 21, 2015, 10:45 am

        Krauss – Could you direct me to an unbiased insight of Clinton’s social/economic policies as the reported speeches I have heard did not suggest she had any such leanings.

  2. DaBakr on May 20, 2015, 6:07 pm

    American citizens accepted Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Just saying.

    Also-is the prejudice in the US really against Arabs-or is it more a fear of their ignorance of religion of Islam? (I actually don’t know) After all-I have to imagine most Americans were aware the Boston bomber was not an Arab.

    and 3rd: Obama made a few great speeches in his run-up to election. I never trust a good speech even if I enjoy it. ‘Buy the seller not the product’

    • a blah chick on May 20, 2015, 9:01 pm

      “I have to imagine most Americans were aware the Boston bomber was not an Arab.”

      Never underestimate the ignorance of John Q Public.

      • lysias on May 21, 2015, 2:54 pm

        I once heard Rush Limbaugh on air say that something was true of Iran because it was true of all Arabs.

      • catalan on May 21, 2015, 3:39 pm

        “Same goes for the identification of Lee Harvey Oswald after the JFK assassination, where they released not only his name but also a lot of details about him. – ” Lysias
        In a way I see where you are going. We are about 7 billion people pretty much controlled by 700. I think it’s less a conspiracy than a genetic modification which occurred during the domestication of plants and animals. Possibly, agriculture was a result of that genetic change, as how else would kings convince people to till the land when prior to that they roamed free. There had to be some big change in how we view the world to get from leisurely hunter gatherers to a herd.
        I know you have an inkling that it is a Jewish conspiracy. If so, they are choosy. I am educated, speak languages, and am perfectly willing to get rich and powerful. Yet, that phone call is not coming. Mostly I get bills, and even some overcharges. What gives?

      • lysias on May 26, 2015, 12:32 pm

        I know you have an inkling that it is a Jewish conspiracy.

        That’s not quite an accurate statement of my view on the JFK assassination. I suspect that Israel and some of its American Jewish sympathizers were junior partners in the conspiracy, but I know that the CIA was the lead party. The evidence on the CIA is that strong. I also strongly suspect that LBJ was one of the prime instigators

    • ckg on May 20, 2015, 9:34 pm

      Also-is the prejudice in the US really against Arabs-or is it more a fear of their ignorance of religion of Islam? (I actually don’t know)

      I don’t know either, DaBakr. The two prejudices are conflated. After the Oklahoma City bombing, everyone was looking for an Arab/Muslim. After 9/11, this Christian Arab-American family locked its doors tight.

    • on May 21, 2015, 2:30 pm

      The real question about the Boston marathon bombing is the role of US intelligence agencies played in it. We were lied to about how the bombers were identified. We were told that there was a video shot from across the street showing the younger brother placing the second bomb. Deval Patrick even claims he saw this video. Turns out no such video exists (surely it would have been shown at the trial if it did exist). We still don’t know how the authorities now explain their identification of the bombers was made. We were also told the FBI had to go to the public to find out who these two guys were. Then Russia let us know that they had in fact informed the FBI with concerns about the older brother. The FBI then admitted this had taken place. But claimed they only met with him once and dropped the investigation. This is not credible and is contradicted by the boys’ mother who said the FBI met with her older son several times (at which time she was threatened with arrest should she return to Boston due to an alleged shop lifting charge). The FBI never did explain why they could not identify a guy they had investigated. No bomb making material was ever found.

      • lysias on May 21, 2015, 2:50 pm

        The names of the 9/11 hijackers were released suspiciously quickly after the 9/11 attacks.

        Same goes for the identification of Lee Harvey Oswald after the JFK assassination, where they released not only his name but also a lot of details about him.

      • on May 21, 2015, 4:00 pm

        “The names of the 9/11 hijackers were released suspiciously quickly after the 9/11 attacks.”

        They certainly were. Nobody had any idea 911 was coming but by the next mornings newspapers we were seeing the pictures and names of the alleged perps and everyone knew OBL was behind it all.

    • Hostage on May 23, 2015, 11:07 pm

      American citizens accepted Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Just saying.

      The Constitution merely called it the “privilege of the writ”, because the framers opted to ignore the decision in Somerset v Stewart (1772) 98 ER 499. The English High Court ruled that the writ applied to black slaves under English common law, and essentially ended the practice.

      On the other hand, Chief Justice Taney’s tendentious Supreme Court opinion regarding the writ of habeas corpus in Dred Scott v Sanford essentially started the United States on the path to civil war. He declared that legislation prohibiting slavery from western territories was unconstitutional and that natural born blacks, whether free or slave, had no standing as citizens under the Constitution.

      That decision made any further political compromises nearly impossible. In Ex Parte Merryman he was at it once again in the aftermath of the Pratt Street Massacre in Baltimore. He was presiding over a kangaroo session of the Circuit Court that had been convened in a Masonic Lodge when an armed mob of 2000 persons proved to large for the Court House. The press reported that 150 of the men had lined the walls and were “armed to the teeth” and had sworn to free Merryman from his military guards as soon as they arrived. If that situation didn’t satisfy the Constitutional conditions for a suspension of the writ in the interest of public safety, then the phrase has no meaning at all. Moreover, Merryman was charged with various offenses of treason that were not amenable to a writ of habeas corpus in the first place.

      Merryman was subsequently released and indicted by a grand jury on the basis of testimony supplied by at least 10 other persons. He was charged with treason twice in Circuit Court, but the Chief Justice never scheduled a trial date. When he finally died in 1864, his successor did the same, since Lincoln had already offered the first round of pardons and a conditional, but general amnesty. By the end of the war, “Lt. Merryman” had changed his story several times and admitted that he personally led the Maryland County Horse Guard when it burned the railroad bridges and cut the telegraph lines to prevent the US Army from relieving its units in Baltimore after the initial massacre of some soldiers during the riots on Pratt Street. Incredibly enough, he claimed that he was doing that to prevent further, inevitable bloodshed. But he still continued to file civil lawsuits against General Cadwalader for not responding to the writ and sending a military guard to escort him to the courthouse (and almost certain death).

      The full Supreme Court dealt with similar writ issues in the Ex parte Quirin case in 1942 and the Hamdi v Rumsfeld case in 2004. Neither of those settled all of the issues, but they conspicuously avoided the opportunity to affirm the Ex Parte Merryman opinion.

      • lysias on May 26, 2015, 12:36 pm

        Taney was of course quite wrong in Dred Scott, but my own opinion is that he was right in Merryman. The issue in the case was whether the President by himself, without Congress, could suspend habeas corpus. Taney, writing by himself, held that he could not. At the time, the whole Supreme Court did not decide the issue. But when I read the opinions in Hamdi, I counted the number of justices who signed opinions that said that suspension of habeas corpus belonged to Congress, and they added up to a majority of the court.

    • Hostage on May 23, 2015, 11:31 pm

      Regarding: American citizens accepted Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Just saying.

      Forgot to mention that Lincoln had explained that prisoners like Merryman, were being detained for levying war on the Union Army, or giving aid and comfort to persons who were doing so, during a rebellion that began while the Congress was still in recess.

      When those exigent situations occurred in the past, they had always been governed by the Laws and Customs of War; the Articles of War adopted by the Continental Congress and subsequent revisions; and General Field Orders, like the Lieber Code of 1863.

      The reference to “the Privilege of the writ” in Article 1 of the Constitution regards a limitation on the power of Congress respecting the suspension of a common law procedure that never applied to persons waging war on the government in the first place. When an invasion or rebellion occurred the armed forces customarily detained and treated those responsible as “prisoners of war” without charges for the duration of the conflict and avoided returning them to the battlefield or belligerent community. That was not considered a form of punishment.

      It was a doctrine of English common law that the writ of habeas corpus was NOT applicable to cases involving persons detained for acts of treason during invasions or rebellions. When the Parliament finally got around to codifying the writ as black letter law in 1679, it included a stipulation that the writ applied to all cases, except for treason and felonies. See the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 The Federalist Paper #84 cited Blackstone’s Commentary on the subject of the writ. It also explained in great detail that the writ does NOT apply to cases of treason. See the discussion at the bottom of page 106 and top of page 107

      Here is the relevant portion of the summary from the Ex Parte Merryman case:

      The petitioner, a citizen of Baltimore, was arrested by a military officer acting on the authority of his commanding officer. The petitioner was accused of treason against the United States. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, while on Circuit Court duty, issued a writ of habeas corpus directing the commanding officer to deliver the prisoner, and this was refused on the grounds that the officer was authorized by the President to suspend the writ.

      FYI, when a federal judge served General Jackson with a writ like that during the occupation of New Orleans, he had the Judge arrested and exiled. When he was finally allowed to return, the Judge fined him $1,000 dollars and the General paid it. The grateful citizens of the city raised the money to reimburse him, but Jackson made them donate it to the widows and orphans of the war. In the end, the US Congress insisted on reimbursing him, with interest.

      • Jackdaw on May 24, 2015, 3:15 am


        Doesn’t ‘pillage’ require that there be an ‘armed conflict’ between two States?

        If no ‘armed conflict’ exists between Israel and the nascent State of Palestine, then how can a settler, whatever his citizenship, be guilty of pillage?

  3. pabelmont on May 20, 2015, 6:10 pm

    I imagine I don’t join Rand Paul in all his positions, but on these matters he is right on — and a hero of our times. “Writs of Assistance”. I read a whole book about them once, by Malcolm Freiberg, a Massachusetts historian.

    Who’d have thought they would pop up in a Congressional speech today?

  4. JWalters on May 20, 2015, 6:23 pm

    Today we have multiple guilty pleas, testifying to the accuracy of evidence presented in court by the DOJ that the biggest banks in the western world have been engaging in an ongoing CONSPIRACY. This particular CONSPIRACY has been to defraud their own clients.

    In Matt Taibbi’s classic book “Griftopia” (2010) we have an in-depth analysis of Big Finance’s even more gigantic criminal CONSPIRACIES over the last several decades.

    Wendall Potter, former VP of PR (including deceptions) for a large insurance company, has explained how Wall Street controls the business strategies of large corporations. The criminal CONSPIRACIES flow from the biggest banks to the big corporations. The war business is one of the most profitable corporate sectors, bringing in massive profits ($35 billion to Halliburton alone in the Iraq war).

    The so-called “War on Terror” has been profitable in the extreme. Under its guise, these CONSPIRATORS have moved to establish thorough, “Patriotic” surveillance of everybody, including all possible dissenters. These CONSPIRATORS have established a thorough system of disinformation to keep the public as ignorant as possible. And they have established a thorough system of inciting ethnic conflicts to keep people confused, and to promote continuing war profits.

    “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror” describes the historical events by which today’s religious conflicts were ignited in the Middle East. These conflicts were predicted by the U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, along with MANY other knowledgeable people. Their facts and rationality were crushed by the money of big banks. These banks undoubtedly also saw the wars coming, since they had been profiting from both sides of wars for several centuries.

    Another set of Nuremberg Trials is needed to clean these vicious parasites out of the system.

    • Citizen on May 21, 2015, 6:24 am

      Good luck with that. Mayer Rothschild said, “Whoever controls the money needs no standing army to control the country.” One big US bank was fined recently for fraud; a lot of money for the average person, but a pat on the wrist to such banks. Besides, the CEO didn’t get the fine, the bank’s investors will take the hit. If memory serves, the Nazi banker, Schacht was set free at the Nuremberg Trials. (He had the highest IQ of the defendants.) In comparison, the ex school teacher Julius Streicher, was hung for exercising his crude anti-semitic writing and cartoon skills. (He had the lowest IQ). How many Americans even know that one of the new banking rules defines your banking account deposit funds as a debt which can be used by a bank to keep it afloat, a forced “bail-in.” to bail-out your bank?

      Fox News had some pundit on yesterday that dismissed fear of the mass data mining of private citizens–he said the system didn’t involve invasion of privacy by humans, but merely collection of contacts, mere algorithms. His competition countered a federal court’s verdict was that the program was unconstitutional.

      • JWalters on May 21, 2015, 5:34 pm

        Thanks for that very relevant quote. It has scary implications for anyone not in his favor. One has to wonder if that mindset is running the big banks today. Control of the country would explain how the biggest bankers get away with such gigantic crimes.

        But he did not foresee the internet, with its potential for the truth to run rampant among the population. For someone plundering an entire population, that is a very unwelcome development. Fortunately, the people won the recent battle on net neutrality.

        You are definitely right that it’s a difficult war to win, for just the sorts of reasons and examples you cite.

    • mohandeer on May 21, 2015, 10:41 am

      Thank you J. Walters. Although I have no vote in the US I for one would vote for Bernie Sanders, just because the man is principled (whereas Hillary Clinton doesn’t even know the meaning of the word). Have to say I really didn’t expect Paul Rand to come out with something so forthright and applicable. He just earned himself a point. As a UK citizen, it matters greatly who becomes the POTUS in 2016. It could mean the difference between the wars and conflagrations and US overthrows of non Pro Washington governments in favour of “Pro” and someone with an inherent dislike of unnecessary conflict and destabilisation of nations abroad. War proved very profitable for the Bush gramps and great gramps who made a financial killing out of WW2, well the US in general profited. UK Prime Ministers have this nasty habit of being the hanky to catch the POTUS snot whenever he sneezes and the British people pay the price. (so to did Iraq and now the Donbas peoples of Ukraine in which we are all guilty now, no matter who initially installed the nazi regime in Kiev). Since our PM can’t seem to do his own thinking without his own self interests getting in the way, it is crucial who get’s the top spot in the US. Trying to understand the reasons why certain people favour one candidate over another – unless of course they show a marked Pro Israeli or anti-Russian stance, in which case I can dismiss such bigots, helps me to understand future relations between the two nations. As I have seen from so many posts, it seems the US has a truly skewed picture of the UK. So I don’t want to make the same mistake.

      • JWalters on May 21, 2015, 5:52 pm

        Thanks for the view from the UK, especially on the importance of who becomes POTUS. Sadly, it does appear that Hillary is completely compromised by her dependence on the big banks, the centers of corruption in the western world. It appears her current job is to present their “compromise” offer – add transparency to the process while keeping their influence and control.

        I’m waiting to hear her explain why Bill signed away America’s Glass-Steagall protection from the plundering bankers, leading directly to the Great Recession and its “record profits” for those bankers.

      • RoHa on May 21, 2015, 7:10 pm

        “UK Prime Ministers have this nasty habit of being the hanky to catch the POTUS snot whenever he sneezes”

        Aptly phrased!

        I wish I could conjure up a similarly appropriate way of describing the relationship between Australian PMs and POTUS.

      • just on May 21, 2015, 7:32 pm

        Great comment, mohandeer. Thank you.

  5. Marnie on May 21, 2015, 2:10 am

    Thank you for this amazing piece on Rand Paul. I’m very happily surprised that a US senator was making sense and appearing to stand up for US citizens. I wonder if there are any more treasures to be discovered?!

  6. Boo on May 21, 2015, 11:32 am

    This kind of position is dear to the Libertarian heart, and in general, Social Libertarian principles are dear to my heart as well. Economic Libertarian principles skew rapidly towards the loony; once the phrase “fiat currency” is uttered, the jig’s up. Libertarianism is a good fit for the American spirit, and an abysmal one for the American reality. Paul’s comments on the Patriot Act are right on point, but in most other respects he’d be 2016’s Ross Perot.

  7. just on May 21, 2015, 6:48 pm

    Menendez, Blumenthal, Booker and Shumer are all talking about Amtrak Funding on CSPAN 1 right now~ it’s a rerun.

    Nada on Paul. Thankfully, it’s available here, and it’s worth a long look imho:

    Thanks, Phil.

  8. rromani on June 10, 2015, 8:56 pm

    Young Mr. Rand is a little late in raising a ruckus. Where was he when all this talk was making the rounds after the invasion of Iraq?

    When patriotic talk was plentiful and cheap and speaking up could cost you dearly, I don’t remember a peep out of him OR his father when Ashcroft raised the specter of “camps for enemy combatants,” shades of E.O.9066. But I DO remember several Japanese-Americans who had been interned under E.O. 9066, did raise their voices publicly at the time, called the Bush administration out on this.
    While it’s nice that Rand Paul is REVISITING this issue, someone needs to remind him this already was a possibility and that we came VERY close to that happening. He needs to acknowledge this in his presentations on this issue and to fill us in on why he and his father said nothing at the time. Without this, Rand Paul is blowing sunshine in an insincere bid for support from a growing demographic.

    • annie on June 10, 2015, 9:20 pm

      Young Mr. Rand is a little late in raising a ruckus.

      mr paul is 52, not that young. but he didn’t enter politics until 2010.

      While it’s nice that Rand Paul is REVISITING this issue, someone needs to remind him this already was a possibility and that we came VERY close to that happening.

      we did? i just don’t remember discussion of the possibility of the internment of arab americans after our invasion of iraq. albeit there were way too many arab americans spied on and many incarcerated. but nothing like what happened to the japanese in ww2. not that i recall.

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