Millions of words were written in 2011 demanding less government and smaller government. Conservatives and Republicans were especially aggressive in their calls for government to reduce its reach and its size. But at the tail end of the year, in a rare burst of bipartisanship, the government grabbed more power, and we citizens lost a little more of our liberty.
Congress just passed National Defense Authorization Act HR 1540, giving itself the power to imprison indefinitely and without trial any U.S. citizen accused of "being part of or substantially supporting Al Queda, the Taliban or associated forces without trial until the end of hostilities".
Al Queda, the Taliban and associated forces are indeed dangerous enemies. And the term for supporting one's country's enemies is this...treason. Simply put, Congress has passed a bill that empowers the government to accuse you of treason and imprison you forever, without ever having to prove its case.
Has the fear of treason led us to betray the Bill of Rights?
Although Al Queda and the Taliban are the latest dangerous enemies, there's nothing at all new about treason. The U.S. has dealt with traitors since the very beginning of the Republic.
What does it take to be a traitor? There are 3 basic motivators: money, ideology, and ego. The greatest of these is ego.
Let's look at some famous traitors, and see how it works:
Benedict Arnold, whose very name is a synonym for treason, started out as a patriot for the revolution. But after having been passed over by lesser men for honors he knew he deserved, he became disillusioned with the American Revolution. That, plus a fee of 25,000 British pounds, convinced him to conspire to turn his command of West Point over to the British. His co-conspirator was captured, court-martialed, convicted and executed. Arnold fled and died in disgrace. The American Revolution succeeded
More recently, there was Robert Hanssen, a man who spent years spying for the Soviet Union and then Russia. He was a "mole" who betrayed his country while working in FBI counterintelligence. Hanssen was a brilliant and capable man, who, like many traitors, was convinced of his own superiority. Like Benedict Arnold, Hanssen was disillusioned by a system that withheld from him the respect he felt he deserved. Oh, and the Russians paid him, too. Hanssen was tried and convicted, and is serving a sentence of life without parole. There's no more Soviet Union. America survived this blow.
In an ongoing case that is arguably treason, Major Nidal Malik Hasan is the army psychiatrist who killed and injured dozens of people at Ft. Hood, Texas. Hasan faces court martial and possibly the death penalty. What motivated his treachery? According to news reports, he disapproved of U.S. military policy and found it contradictory to his ideology. We might also consider money to have been a factor, since if the good doctor's convictions made him quit the army he would have had to pay back their considerable investment in his education.
We shall see justice meted out in this case, as well.
Money, ideology, ego. Since this trifecta is always in play, treason will remain a powerful threat. It is indeed frightening to think that people who live among us might betray us.
Has the fear of treason led us to betray our Bill of Rights?