- The President's declaration of a right to assassinate American citizens he deems terrorists or those who aid terrorists.
- Congressional authorization granting the President authority to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens accused of terrorism or aiding terrorists without due process of law as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
- The President's arbitrary right to decide whether a person is entitled to a trial in a U.S. civil court or military tribunal.
- The President's expanded authority to conduct warrantless searches in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
- The use of "secret evidence" protection to shield from disclosure evidence used to detain and try persons accused of crimes that disclosure of which the government claims would harm national security.
- The refusal to investigate or prosecute war crimes committed by the through of unlawful interrogation methods.
- The use of secret foreign intelligence courts.
- Immunity from prosecution granted to companies which assist the U.S. government in warrantless searches of citizens.
- The use of GPS systems to monitor the movement of citizens without any court order or review.
- Extraordinary renditions that allows the President to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to other countries in order that tortures methods may be carried out against suspects.
An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.
The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, a Mrs. Powel confronted Franklin after the signing of the Constitution and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His response was a bit chilling: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”
Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely.
The indefinite-detention provision in the defense authorization bill seemed to many civil libertarians like a betrayal by Obama. While the president had promised to veto the law over that provision, Levin, a sponsor of the bill, disclosed on the Senate floor that it was in fact the White House that approved the removal of any exception for citizens from indefinite detention.
Dishonesty from politicians is nothing new for Americans. The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free.