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Begich and Murkowski – Alaska’s Constitution-Optional Senators

Let’s play a little game. Imagine this scenario, and then tell me in what country this story takes place. You wake up and go to work. Maria, in the next cubicle over, isn’t there. And she isn’t there the next day. You and your coworkers come to find out that military officers knocked on her door in the middle of the night and took her away somewhere. She was suspected of being an enemy of the government – suspected of being a terrorist. No benchmark of proof was necessary. No presumption of innocence. The executive branch of the government gave the order, and the military responded. You realize that not only do you not know where she is, but she can’t call you or anyone. She has no legal representation. She has not been charged with anything. She can be held indefinitely on suspicion… of something. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

If someone had told you in the year 2000, that eleven years later, a Democratic led Senate in the United States of America would vote to pass a bill including a provision that allowed the United States military (not law enforcement), on U.S. soil, to detain and hold American citizens on a suspicion of terrorism, and to hold them indefinitely without legal representation, and without even a charge, would you have believed them?  Perhaps if you were a Japanese American of a certain age, you might. Almost 70 years ago, Executive Order 9066 authorized the U.S. military to remove any person from designated “military zones” without charge, trial or due process.  What happened next was the forced evacuation and internment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, two thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. Many spent years in camps. Their only crime? They looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.

Last week the Senate voted on an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill of 2011. The Feinstein amendment said that it was not okay to use the military on US soil against the citizens of its country. The majority of your elected representatives in the senate didn’t much like that idea, and voted it down 55-45. It remains to be seen if the bill will see a presidential veto.

Every school child learns about Habeas corpus. It is one of those procedural remedies which made us, as Americans, feel grateful for our system of justice. It was one of those reasons that we felt proud to live in a country where individual liberties were valued, where the rights of the citizens meant something. We embraced that ideal of the founders that the people ran the government. We were not a citizenrywho lived in fear of tyrants, of governments who wielded their power by unjustly imprisoning those they wished to silence, those who were considered a “threat” by the subjective standard of the executive branch. This was America, and Americans were free.

But Habeas corpus is only a guarantee and a procedural remedy against illegal detention. Illegal used to mean held without charge for an indefinite period of time. Illegal used to mean that the government could not use the military against its own people. Now, it doesn’t. So, the former best safeguard of our individual liberties has been put through the wringer. Illegal detention doesn’t look like it used to, and neither does Habeas corpus.

And then there’s the Constitution – the rule book, our political Bible, the blueprint of our nation, our birthright as citizens. It had a few things to say about criminal prosecution and detention. Who can forget these old favorites?

‘In the trial of all crimes there shall be a jury, and the trial shall be held in the State where said crimes have been committed.”

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 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, except upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.

As an American citizen, this is what you get.  This is the prize for winning the political lottery. This is why politicians love to say how “exceptional” we are as a country. These are the actual freedoms that our troops supposedly go fight for – the very troops who may now be called upon to seize and arrest you with no charge, no presumption of innocence, no jury trial, no lawyer, no court,  in violation of the Constitution they have sworn to protect and defend.

That’s a nice kettle of fish.

Now, don’t delude yourself. It isn’t like the Bush and the Obama administrations haven’t been doing this already. It’s one of the things for which progressives and Democrats used to love to criticize the Bush administration. But most seem strangely silent about the fact that the Obama administration is doing the very same thing.  And the “Constitutional conservatives”  and small government Republicans who turned a blind eye to Bush, but were happy to criticize Obama, are now strangely silent when the vast majority of Republicans voted against the Feinstein amendment.

So, what’s the difference if all this has already been going on for years?  Why should we care?  The difference is this:

First, this will actually codify unconstitutional acts into our body of law. It condones it. It puts it on the books. It is another hatchet mark in the Tree of Liberty, to use a favorite Tea Party metaphor. And every stroke of the axe brings the tree closer to collapse.

Second, we now have the privilege of knowing exactly who is on the side of the Constitution and the intent of the founders of the country. We also know who is willing to sell your most basic unalienable rights down the river. They do it because of political calculation, ineptitude, or desire to keep the nation in a perpetual state of war with an amorphous enemy that exists under every rock, and behind every tree until the end of time. The battlefield is everywhere, and the enemy is “terrorism” – the dark art practiced by those who “hate our freedom.” Ironically, we just gave them less to hate.

I was pleased to see that there were Republicans who actually walked their small government, individual liberties, Constitutional talk. Kudos to Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mike Lee of Utah for breaking with their party and standing up for the people of the country.

It would have been nice to see Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have the courage to do the same. She has been criticized by the far right for being centrist, and moderate, and sometimes even liberal. The reason Democrats were given by the Murkowski campaign to vote for her in her historic and victorious write-in campaign (against far right Republican candidate Joe Miller, and progressive Scott McAdams) was that if she were re-elected in this way, it would free her to be more “herself.” She’d now be unshackled and not beholden to the pressures of the Republican party. She could vote her heart.  Well, take a good look, Democrats who voted for Lisa Murkowski. Peek in to that heart and tell me what you see – it either belongs to someone too weak to buck the party that threw her under the bus in the 2010 election, or an attorney who thinks nothing of voting against the Constitution she swore to uphold.

Ironically, both of her opponents in the 2010 senate race would have voted for the amendment, despite their very different political philosophies.

When asked if he would have voted for the Feinstein amendment, Joe Miller said in a statement to The Mudflats, “I absolutely would have voted for it.  Please note that my position on the Constitution and the liberties it guarantees has been consistent, no matter the position of party leadership.  I am very concerned about the increasing reach of the federal government to the detriment of individual liberties.  Alaskans can rest assured that whatever I do in the future, I will continue to fight aggressively to protect their fundamental rights.”

Democratic candidate Scott McAdams agreed, and told The Mudflats, “Empowering the executive branch with the power to arrest, detain and deprive a sovereign citizen the due process rights promised in our constitution is undemocratic and anti-American. No amount of security is worth demolishing the civil liberties that make America great. I am appalled Senators from a state that values individual and civil liberty above all would support this horrible affront to the core of who we are as Alaskans.

“As a locally elected leader, I have seen inconsistencies between a governing body’s intended purpose of a policy or ordinance and the manner in which such is carried out by staff. As community members, we would rally against an official who misused their authority, suspend a child from school without a stated purpose, or fire a public employee without just cause. It is outrageous to imagine that we as citizens would ever allow our local police departments to arrest and indefinitely hold a suspect with no promise of a trial. Our senators can’t possibly be naive enough to believe that the potential for abuse inherent in this short-sighted security measure is not real, and I hope Alaskans let their delegation know it.”

When Lisa Murkowski’s father Frank Murkowski lost the gubernatorial primary to Sarah Palin, the bumper sticker “Anyone but Frank” was seen on the rear ends of cars and trucks across the state. So, who would have voted for the retention of your civil liberties in the senate? Who would have voted to preserve the intent of the writ of Habeas Corpus, and the Constitution?  In 2010, the answer would have been “Anyone but Lisa.”

Now, let’s look at the Democrats who voted against this amendment – those who bucked their party in order to do the wrong thing. Here are the Democrats who think that violating your Constitutional rights is OK, as long as it serves their own political purposes – Richard Blumenthal (CT), Daniel Inouye (HI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Mary Landrieu (LA), Carl Levin (MI), Joe Manchin (WV), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR), Jack Reed (RI), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and yes, Mark Begich of Alaska.

Shame on every Democrat who decided to buck their party, only to officially codify the theft of your Constitutional rights.

Any Alaskan who doesn’t have their head in the sand isn’t surprised by Murkowski’s vote. But, in a moment when Mark Begich could have distinguished himself from Murkowski, appealed to civil libertarians in Alaska (of which there are many from the Tea Party to the Occupy movement), defended the oath taken by servicemen and women in the military, and didn’t even have to vote against his party, he blew it.

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air –however slight -lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
– Justice William O. Douglas, US Supreme Court (1939-75)

Fifty five senators who feared to look “soft on terror” have taken away our basic civil liberties in a way the terrorists never could.  Who should we really fear?




34 Responses to “Begich and Murkowski – Alaska’s Constitution-Optional Senators”
  1. Bucsfan says:

    By the by, I think we need to take a very close look at how Senator Begich is going to vote in the future. I believe the closer we get to 2014 and his try for reelection the more towards the right he will tack. There have been a number of his votes I have been disappointed in, some on the environment, some in other areas. When I voted for Mark in 2008, it was with the belief that he would do what is best for Alaska, whats best for the country and be different from Lisa. I still have hope.

  2. Moose Pucky says:

    Murkowski also filibustering with the Republican block to stop needed judicial appointments.

    • Moose Pucky says:

      More info on this here:

      “…In a statement, Marge Baker of People for the American Way wrote that “Today’s vote has kept a talented lawyer from the bench, at least for the moment, but it has also set a new standard for D.C. Circuit nominees that will be virtually impossible for any president of either party to meet. Halligan’s nomination should not have been at all controversial– she is decidedly moderate and unquestionably qualified. If someone so unquestionably qualified and backed by top legal figures from across the political spectrum can be blocked by a filibuster, then who can’t be?…”

      • Moose Pucky says:

        Well, well, well–since they didn’t really need her vote, Murkowski broke ranks with Republicans on this one at the end. Still, the appointment was filibustered by the Republicans. 60 votes were needed. 54 votes were received. 53 Democrats and Murkowski.

  3. 24owls says:

    As pointed out by AKM, it would seem to me that this is unconstitutional and will be rejected by the court so I wonder why all the time and effort and controversy was put into a bill that is clearly at odds with the consitution. Certainly the senate lawyers would have had questions – I know the bigger picture is how Mark and Lisa voted, Lisa’s vote was unsurprising as she is in lockstep with the repubs and she has lost any and all credability to have any “independence” from the gop but Mark – I hope that AKM will have to opportunity to sit down and have a face to face with him and ask him to explain his vote. Maybe get him to release a statement.

  4. Bob Lobster says:

    Mark Begich could have distinguished himself from Murkowski, …. blew it.
    Wow, I guess I’m voting against this moron in the next election… Please remind me when the dweeb comes up for re-election… Thanks in advance…

  5. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign says:

    Sorry – haven’t liked Begich from almost day one. I met him in Seattle shortly after his election, introduced myself and congratulated him. He was a distant jerk. He’s nothing like his father, at least not in public. Does he ever speak to Alaskans? Is he visible in Juneau? Have I once seen him walking down the street with a smile and a nod as did Govs Hammond & Knowles and so many of our state politicians? I’ve met Lisa, too and she was polite and made a point to come talk to my family at a memorial service.

    His newsletters are lame ass, and his office often rejects petitions signed on the Internet. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. I won’t be voting for him. I will be sending a letter. I don’t even care if he’s a Blue Dog (which is to be expected up here in the land of lame ass Dems) – what I care about most is that he doesn’t act like an Alaskan. He puts his family name to shame as far as I’m concerned.

    OK – venting over. Usually I try to find something humorous to say, even about the tough stuff, but this man gets my goat. Begich Smegich.

    Please, Mr. Scott McAdams…I will work for you again if you decide to run! Your manners, attention, intelligence, passion, and kind toughness run circles around Mark. You fire us up, Mark throws cold water and turns his back.

    • Martha Unalaska Yard Sign says:

      He’s a coward, forgot that part.

    • Martha Unalaska Yard Sign says:

      I haven’t been this hot under the collar for a very long time. He has thrown away opportunity after opportunity and I’m not even sure why he wanted to be a Senator. Cowardly jerk.

  6. Simple Mind says:

    Anyone surprised by Murkowski’s vote simply hasn’t been paying attention. She has always been a obedient follower of the Party of No. She has no choice. She has to deliver the pork for the folks who paid to elect her. Unless she switches parties, she has nowhere else to go. Now Begich is the baffler here. Not that he’s incapable of screwing his supporters. Begich’s commitment to ideals has always been a mile wide and a quarter inch deep. In the end, it has always been about Mark, which makes this vote even more odd. With Sullivan forming up on his right, Begich is going to need every progressive vote he can find. One wonders why Begich would kiss off a hunk of his liberal base with this dumb vote.

  7. Mag the Mick says:

    Here’s Christy Moore and Dec Sinnott, two Irish musical heroes, doing a little different version. It gives you a feel for the power of the song. “No Time For Love…”

  8. blue_in_AK says:

    Mark has seen my last vote, and, yes, I told him so.

  9. Mag the Mick says:

    I heard this from a singer in Ireland, who wrote the words down for me after his show. I don’t know who wrote it.

    They call it the law, apartheid, internment, conscription, and silence.
    It’s the law that they make to keep us where they think we belong.
    They hide behind titles and bullet-proof glass, machine guns and spies
    And tell us who suffer the tear gas and torture that we’re in the wrong.

    There’s no time for love when they come in the morning
    No time to show fear or for tears in the morning
    No time to cry and no time to ask why,
    And the wail of the siren is the cry of the morning.

    The trade union leaders, the fighters, the rebels, the workers and all
    And the strikers who fought with the cops at the factory gate.
    The sons and the daughters of unnumbered heroes who paid with their lives
    And the poor folk whose cry for freedom was their only mistake.


    They took away Victor Jara, James Connolly, Lech Walesa, all back in their time.
    They came for Steve Biko, Mandela, Susulu, and some of their friends.
    In Warsaw, Chicago, Saigon, Santiago, Capetown, and Dublin,
    And the places that never make headlines, the list never ends.


    The boys in blue, they’re only a few of the everyday cops on the beat,
    CIA, Branchmen, informers and spies, they do their jobs well.
    Behind them, the men who tap phones, take pictures, and program computers and files
    And the man who tells them when to come and take you to your cell.


    So come all you people who give to your brothers and sisters the will to fight on,
    They say you can get used to war, does that mean that the war must go on.
    The fish need the sea to survive, just like your comrades need you.
    And the death squads can only get them if first they can get through to you.

    There’s no time for love when they come in the morning,
    No time to show fear or for tears in the morning.
    There’s no time to cry and no time to ask why,
    And the wail of the siren is the cry of the morning.

  10. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Outstanding post, AKM. I am proud to say that Senator Feinstein is my senator.

  11. carol says:

    This is one question that absolutely needs to be asked of Begich. Why would he vote that way?
    What did we miss about this bill that he saw that caused him to vote that way?

  12. jojobo1 says:

    This is one reason why I come here because I find out things that the media does not cover for one reason or another. Great Job AKM.Very well written and presented.Lets all pray that President Obama does veto it.I would think that he would.

  13. Kelly says:

    The senate passed this onerous bill 93-7. It is veto proof if it gets reconciled in the House. And even then, I have my doubts that despite Obama’s rhetoric he would actually veto this bill.

    Great Piece AKM. I am emailing this to both Murkowski and Begich along with Shannyn’s ADN piece.

    We should figure out a way to rally with our Tea Party brethren over THIS ISSUE and protest both Senators’ next public appearance in Alaska.

    • Zyxomma says:

      No, it’s 55 to 45. Re-read the post. My Senators did not vote to take away my constitutional rights. Too bad so many did. Vote, vote, vote.

  14. Lacy Lady says:

    I wrote to Sen. Harkin and Sen Grassley before this vote was taken. I have not heard back from Harkin. As for Grassley—-All I got from him was his ” Here’s the Scoop” letter, which does not say one word about this.
    I find this bill more than scary. It makes America a police state. I remember WW11 and what happened in Germany.
    I have heard that Pres Obama will veto this bill. However, all the Senators who voted “yes” on the bill should resign from office. What they have done is “un-American” , in my opinion.
    Also, I don’t understand why none of this has “hit the news media”. It’s like they know it is wrong, but they still did it and are hiding it under the table. Shame on them!

  15. StElias says:

    For some time now, I’ve regarded Senator Bernie Sanders as my Senator even though I be a life long Alaskan. Albeit, Senator Begich is far superior to the likes of Rep. Don Young and Lisa Murkowski, both of which long ago sold our interests out to industry lobbyists, I believe Begich to be simply overwhelmed by Alaska’s Big Oil and Military Industrial Complex moneyed lackeys. Root of the problem is though, that the majority of Alaskans, who vote, are not hard core Alaskans but of a relatively short tenure here whose allegiance goes solely to those industries, not the long term best interest of Alaska.

    • David Otness says:

      You have got to stand and be counted when your name is called.
      And this called for courage.
      And this is what we got.
      And I am not surprised from someone who never stood for anything of consequence before.

    • Writing from Alaska says:

      Yes, I found it totally ridiculous that HuffPo kept running big headline news stories about the non-event of Herman Cain’s announcement about the end of his purported campaign for the presidency while this story lingered somewhere down the page with stories of little import. fuss.

  16. nswfm says:

    It’s hard to believe Daniel Inouye voted for this, given the Japanese being sent to Inyo and Manzanar, etc.

    Fortunately my Senators didn’t vote for this. But still, this is ridiculous.

    I have dinner with a Holocaust survivor every Sunday and it’s hard to believe what is happening in this country.

    • Bucsfan says:

      It isn’t hard for me to believe that. Inouye has voted to the right quite often. And yes, while his family was not interred, he served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team with many Japanese Americans from the mainland who had enlisted out of the internment camps. It was the most decorated unit of its size, with 21 Medal of Honor recipients, including the Senator himself. He should never feel as if he has to vote this way to prove his mettle regarding National Security. He has already proved it ten times over.

  17. mike from iowa says:

    You forgot to mention the Salvadoran death squads that murdered nuns and priests and civilians with US seal of approval and…..Oh,you weren’t talking about Central America. I guess Raygun and co-horts did enough damage there.It is becoming frightening to be an American citizen in America,which I guess is the point of this legislation.

  18. Outstanding post, AKM. Among your best.


    • David Otness says:

      I agree/concur wholeheartedly.
      Mucky done run a hot knife right through the butter.

  19. bubbles says:

    very sad about Begich. how disappointing.

  20. fishingmamma says:

    I have been watching this issue. It is frightening. Murkowski’s vote is not surprising. Begich has become a Washington Insider and a huge disappointment to the Democrats in Alaska.

    We ask our young men and women to put on uniforms, take an oath to defend the Constitution, and to die doing just that. Shame on us for voting in leaders like these.

  21. hedgewytch says:

    I emailed Mark just as soon as I heard about the vote and told him not only would I no longer support him, but that I would work actively to support such true Democrats as Scott McAdams to replace him.

    I suggest everyone also write to President Obama and urge him to veto this.

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  1. […] been squishy on civil liberties in the case of the National Defense Authorization Agreement, but voted in line with Murkowski. He’s been widely criticized in progressive circles as being far too right, and has even […]