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Bill of Rights Circled the Bowl in Boston -- FLUSH!!!

Barry Grey in "American democracy in shambles" writes:

With the implementation of a state of military siege against the population of Boston last week, the American ruling class has crossed a historical, legal and political Rubicon.

The die is cast and the sun is setting on the democratic forms of rule that have existed in the United States for the past two centuries.

Tom Carter in "The Boston lockdown and the Bill of Rights" points out that the Bill of Rights that was ratified in 1791 has provided a framework for our constitutional republic and that it is indeed ironic that with the recent events in Boston, THE CRADLE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, these democratic forms of rule have been SHATTERED!

What history will remember as most significant about the events in Boston will not be the bombing near the marathon’s finish line or the perpetrators or their motives. What will be remembered instead will be the unprecedented military lockdown of an entire major American city, with military vehicles in the streets and heavily armed soldiers going house to house—tromping through living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens, staring down their assault rifles at terrified, barefoot families in their pajamas.


Contrast these historic doctrines, once considered fundamental to the American form of government, with the images that surfaced from Boston last week. SWAT teams with assault rifles and covered in high-tech military equipment storm from armored cars into homes and hold families at gunpoint. There is not even the pretense of legality.


We have got to shake ourselves out of the stupor of our Bush to Obamaworld collective “boiled frog”-dom (or -"dumbness") and try to remember and honor OUR CONSTITUTIONAL LAWS -- OUR RIGHTS!!!!

Carter’s response to the Obama administration’s arbitrary denial of suspect Dzohokhar Tsarnaev receiving Miranda rights, also assuming its right to decide to try said suspect before a military commission rather than before a jury or not:

While the Bill of Rights has not been abrogated formally, it is in many respects no longer in effect. It survives as a “Bill of Suggestions,” to be honored when the ruling establishment approves of its invocation.

Carter spells out the fifth and sixth amendments that Obama is so willing to usurp:

The Fifth Amendment provides that a person shall not be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In other words, a person cannot be bullied into making a confession or otherwise incriminating himself. This is known as “the right to remain silent.”

The Sixth Amendment provides that a person has a right to an attorney. The Obama administration flatly announced that both of these would not be respected in the case of alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev so that he could be “extensively” interrogated.

The mass citizen Governor-ordered lockdown and the house-to-house searches defied the third and fourth amendments.

Carter writes:

The Third Amendment prohibits the quartering of troops in homes, further evidencing the hostility of the American revolutionaries towards arbitrary military intrusions into homes. According to ancient doctrines inherited from English law, it has always been a maxim of American law that “a man’s home is his castle,” such that a citizen is entitled to use force—even lethal force—to resist unlawful or warrantless attempts to enter.


The fourth of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights reads as follows: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fourth Amendment prohibits the entry of homes without a warrant, and further instructs that warrants shall be issued only upon a showing of “probable cause” to believe that criminal activity is involved.

The requirement that warrants be specific and “particularly” describe the contemplated search or seizure reflects the American revolutionaries’ resentment towards the practice of the colonial authorities of issuing “general warrants,” or blank checks for the arbitrary invasion of homes, arrest of their inhabitants, and confiscation of their property. In other words, the Fourth Amendment requires that to obtain a warrant to search a house, specific criminal activity has to be connected with that specific house.

The Fourth Amendment echoes the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, which explicitly forbade the use of general warrants: “That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.”


The Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson famously declared in 1948, ranks among the “fundamental distinctions between our form of government, where officers are under the law, and the police-state where they are the law.”

Carter explains that there were two justifications used for the warrantless house-to-house searches offered in the media. First, that they were “consensual” and thus no warrant was required.

In other words, according to this theory, when families were confronted with dozens of heavily-armed commandos banging on their doors in the middle of the night, they were entirely free to say, “No, you can’t come in.”

The second justification was the doctrine of “exigent circumstances.”

This doctrine is yet another example of a recent judge-made exception that threatens to swallow the rule.

“The “exigent circumstances” exception originally allowed for the warrantless entry of houses in true emergencies—to put out fires, provide medical attention, or rescue occupants from harm’s way. Over the past three decades, and in particular under doctrines advanced by the Bush and Obama administrations in the course of the “war on terror,” this exception—which has no basis in the text of the Fourth Amendment—has been massively expanded.

The “exigent circumstances” exception more and more resembles the “state of exception” doctrine propounded by Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, pursuant to which a “national emergency” may override all existing democratic legal protections.

The Fifth Amendment also provides that a person cannot be deprived of “liberty… without due process of law.”

These rights were nowhere to be seen when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ordered nearly one million people to “shelter in place.” Businesses, schools and courthouses were shut down. Public transportation was halted, and roads were closed in and out of Watertown.

Barry Grey echos the direness of Carter’s analysis:

The events in Boston have laid bare the modus operandi for the establishment of dictatorial forms of rule in the US.

One or another violent act carried out by disoriented or disaffected individuals, perhaps with the help of elements within the state, is declared a terrorist event. A state of siege is imposed suspending democratic rights and establishing military-police control.

So deeply implicated are all of the organs of the state in these plans that little in the outer trappings of political life would have to be changed. It would not be necessary to overthrow the president or shut down Congress. These institutions would readily play their assigned role, and the imposition of a military dictatorship would be sanctioned by the US Supreme Court.

The media would simply continue to do what it normally does—functioning as a de facto arm of the state and providing the necessary pretexts, while whipping up the requisite fear and panic within the public.

The very fact that the entire establishment agrees that democratic norms cannot be maintained in the face of violence by a handful of people testifies to the advanced stage of the breakdown of American democracy.

Grey emphasizes how DISPROPORTIONATE the scale of response was that he calls the search for the suspect a PRETEXT rather than a cause for the lockdown.

The police-state mobilization was the culmination of more than a decade of intensive planning and the ceaseless buildup of the repressive forces of the state since 9/11, carried out under the cover of the “war on terror.”

The operation is not an expression of strength or confidence on the part of the American ruling class. On the contrary, it reflects the near panic of the corporate-financial elite in the face of mounting social discontent, exacerbated by extreme nervousness over the precarious state of global financial markets. What haunts the ruling class is not the fear of a terrorist attack, but dread of a new financial collapse, with the likely consequence of massive social upheavals.

... In the moves to police-military dictatorship, the forms of rule are coming into conformance with the underlying social reality of American capitalism.

Grey focuses on the scope and intensity of US militarism:

Another fundamental cause of the crisis of democracy is the eruption of US militarism. The power of the military/intelligence apparatus has grown immensely, particularly since the end of the Soviet Union, as the American ruling class has turned to military aggression as a means of offsetting the decline in its global economic position. The professional military, segregated from society at large and hostile to it, has acquired ever-greater influence over political affairs and civilian authority. As always, imperialist war is incompatible with democracy.

Grey points out how “American liberalism” seemingly has NO serious champions in the halls of power:

American liberalism as a distinct political tendency has ceased to exist. The lining up of the Democratic Party behind the “war on terror,” and the external aggression and internal repression carried out in its name, has made clear that there is no section of the ruling elite that will defend democratic rights.

The Obama administration, which has expanded the right-wing, antidemocratic policies of the Bush administration, is without question the most reactionary in US history.

Finally, Grey takes to task the amoral and propagandizing POWERFUL corporate media:

As always, the filthiest role is played by the media and its leading personnel. From day one, they turned the airwaves into a continual rumor mill, making one unsubstantiated claim after another in an effort to sow fear and panic and justify the police-state measures being taken.


The media seeks to create an aura of popular support for martial law-type measures.

Gratuitously imposed "martial law" should be more than a televised titillating spectacle in America schmoozed over by an amiable, sociopathic-agendaed president, the other two corrupt branches of government, and their collective, powerful corporate media arm for mass propaganda.

We have got to activate our citizen sense of responsibility a/k/a "ABILITY TO RESPOND"!!!

[cross-posted on open salon]

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Martin Finnucane's picture
Submitted by Martin Finnucane on

SWAT teams with assault rifles and covered in high-tech military equipment storm from armored cars into homes and hold families at gunpoint. There is not even the pretense of legality.

This is and for a long time has been life in broad (but ignored) swaths of both urban and rural America - "ghettos" if you're black, "barrios" if latino, "trailer parks" if white. A guy near my town was somewhat recently convicted to a life sentence, after pleading to avoid the death penalty, for having the temerity to shoot a cop done up in paramilitary gear that invaded his home on a no-knock warrant. The guy was some sort of small time drug dealer, so his home by definition is not his castle. Also, the home was his personal residence, it was the wee hours of the morning, and his girlfriend and infant child were asleep in the house - but no matter.

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

Not reading suspect Miranda Rights before questioning is going to end up biting the Feds in the end for the reason Alan Dershowitz pointed out, its going to screw up DOJ chances of getting a death penalty sentence (since any statements explaining his motives and intent, or demonstrating a lack of remorse, will be thrown out in court).

As for the other stuff, Boston wasn't on martial law per se, there was no legal restriction on residents leaving home but it was reasonable ask people to stay home, no so much for their own safety but to leave the bombers from "blending into the crowd" in their escape.
Finally, SWAT teams going door to door after a wounded alleged cop killer/car jacker/ mad bomber had fled on foot in a residential neighborhood was the smart play (and police had to assume he was armed. Granted, it wasn't very thug the two brothers only had one gun between them).
The danger here (the exigent circumstances permitting a warrantless search) is that cops had no way of knowing if a homeowner refusing to let them in only did so because their daughter was in the next room with a gun to her head.