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article imageOp-Ed: Why Scalia’s remarks on U.S. internment camps should terrify you

By Justin King     Feb 5, 2014 in Politics
Honolulu - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told law students in Hawaii that they should expect the court to issue a ruling similar to the one that allowed U.S. citizens of Japanese descent to be interned without trial during a future conflict.
Justice Scalia quoted Marcus Tullius Cicero when he said that laws are silent in times of war (inter arma silent leges). Scalia was asked by a law student his thoughts on the Korematsu v. United States case, in which two men were convicted of refusing to comply with an order to report to a prison camp even though the men had committed no crime. Scalia said the court was wrong for upholding the convictions, however he followed with:
But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.
This statement should strike every single American with fear for two reasons. First, the longest-serving Justice on the Supreme Court has openly stated that the court does not adhere to the Constitution of the United States, but rather allows laws to wither in times of war. The highest court in the land will gladly send you to a prison camp out of fear, knowing that it is wrong.
Barracks at a Japanese internment facility in the United States
Barracks at a Japanese internment facility in the United States
OSU Special Collections & Archives
During World War II, when Japanese internment was taking place, it was easy to determine who the probable enemy was. Today, the United States no longer fights conventional wars where the enemy is a single nationality. Instead the U.S. declares wars on concepts such as the “War on Terrorism.” The reason this is troubling, is that it allows the government to define probable enemies in any way it chooses and incarcerate them without trial for the purposes of national security.
Who is already considered a potential terrorist according to government documents?
There are dozens of documents put out by government agencies that already establish the signs of suspected terrorists. What can be used to classify an American as a potential terrorist will surprise most.
In 2011, an unclassified Tactical Reference Guide on violent extremism was released. As signals of potential violent extremism, it cautioned about someone who:
complains about bias
believes in government conspiracies to point of paranoia
is frustrated with mainstream ideologies
lacks positive identity with country, unit, family, or friends
is sympathetic to radical groups
visits extremist websites or blogs
attends rallies for extremist causes
associates with known radicals
The guide lists many other indicators. The most disturbing factor in all of the reasons one might become a suspected extremist, is that they are all terrifyingly vague. The Tea Party and evangelical Christians have been labeled extremists, as have supporters of Ron Paul.
Another point that should be noted in detail is that all of these actions are legal, and in some cases protected by the United States Constitution; though Scalia did make it clear that the Constitution was no hindrance to government action. They all relate to what a person thinks, rather than any illegal activity they may or may not be involved in. It seems very likely that Orwellian thoughtcrime is on its way to the United States.
The all-encompassing terminology and vague statutes make any American that disagrees with the government a potential terrorist.
Justice Scalia may have not been advocating this action with his words in Hawaii. In all likelihood, he was trying to slip a warning out to the American people. In 2004, Scalia used the same Cicero quote when he slammed a decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld which allowed the detention of an U.S. citizen without charge. At the time, he said
Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges. Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it.
His 2004 statement pierces straight to the heart of the argument for America’s erosion of rights in the name of national security. A free nation cannot remain free when it allows itself to destroy the very freedoms the society treasures. It is past time for the American people to stop waiving their rights every time a politician waves a flag.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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