Spokesman and organizer for US Uncut
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
This week marks the 220th Anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights. This historic document, ratified in 1791, guaranteed all of us the freedoms that became the bedrock of our Republic. We separated ourselves from despotic regimes the world over by guaranteeing our citizens unprecedented, untouchable liberties - the freedom of speech, the freedom to assembly, the right to a free press, the right to petition leaders for a redress of grievances - in our founding documents. The Bill of Rights also guaranteed us the right to keep and bear arms, the protection from the quartering of troops, the freedom to disobey unwarranted search and seizure, a speedy and public trial with a jury present, due process rights, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. These are freedoms we have all enjoyed for over two centuries.
Today, I vetoed legislation that would have undermined those liberties.
In an alarming turn of events, your representatives in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate - who have sworn an oath to defend our Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic - passed a bill that would have violated the sacred protections our founders promised the people of this nation 220 years ago. Ironically, the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the wars that our men and women are currently fighting overseas, included language that would have stripped away the freedoms that those men and women of the armed forces are sworn to protect.
On January 20th, 2009, I made an oath to the American people on the steps of the US Capitol, in front of millions of Americans. I swore that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. In my inaugural address, I called on all of you to reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. And now, I'm calling on Congress to reject as false the idea that all of America is a battlefield, and that Americans are guilty before being proven innocent.
If I had signed this bill into law, I would have stripped away Americans' protections from unlawful search and seizure. The rights to due process of law that Americans currently enjoy would evaporate under sections 1031 and 1032 of this legislation. With the stroke of my pen, I would have undermined habeas corpus rights that would allow Americans to seek relief from indefinite detention. If I didn't veto this legislation I would have ended posse comitatus rights in America, allowing members of the military to police American citizens instead of being a force to protect American citizens.
While defending these attacks on our American rights, the senior United States Senator from South Carolina promised "death, detention and prosecution" to all civilians who could be named "enemy combatants" under this bill. He went on to say, "If they ask for their lawyer, we tell them to shut up." Tomorrow I'll be sending Senator Graham and every other lawmaker who voted for this legislation a copy of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, to hopefully prevent similar legislation from reaching my desk in the future.
As President of the United States, I have the ability to either sign into law or veto every bill that Congress puts on this desk. And because of the presidential oath I took in front of all of you nearly three years ago, I had no choice but to veto the National Defense Authorization Act due to its violations of the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Amendments to the US Constitution.
Since Osama bin Laden's merciless attack on our soil over a decade ago, we have witnessed the creation of the detention centers at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, along with the consistent erosion of judicial rights set forth by international law and the US Constitution. With the help of clever wordsmithing by his Department of Justice, my predecessor created loopholes that denied prisoners of war their Geneva Convention rights, and implemented detainment policies that have made us more enemies than friends.
In the eight years my predecessor was in office, difficult legal grey areas and loopholes around our Constitution were put in place. In defiance of basic judicial rights we guarantee our own citizens, we detained without trial thousands of prisoners in secret facilities in other countries, inflicted cruel and unusual punishments, and indirectly created an environment that fosters resentment of our country and our ideals.
I've gone to great lengths to defend our nation from terror, and have carried out my promises to hunt down members of al-Qaeda with the help of our allies in the Middle East. During my four years, I've done my best to make the world a safer place from terror. I've overseen the end of the Iraq War, the end of Muammar Gadhafi's reign in Libya, and the killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this year. I firmly believe that Americans have a right to be safe from terror attacks, most importantly by excluding American citizens and American soil from the battlefield in the war on terror.
By vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act, I'm challenging Congress to both find a way to fund our military in a way that doesn't undermine the rights our military is sworn to defend, and to set this nation in a new direction - one where our citizens are free to go about their lives without being classified as terrorists for expressing their First Amendment rights.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would trade liberty for security will lose both and deserve neither." I believe Americans can be safe from harm without having to sacrifice the liberties our forefathers died to protect. And I believe the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution should outlive any potential threat from terrorists. If we allow our fear of terror to overcome our desire to be free, then the terrorists have won, and the American people have lost.
As President, I will continue to fight for the preservation of our Constitutional freedoms just as fervently as I've fought the threats of international terrorism. Bypassing our own principles to advance any particular agenda is morally reprehensible, and I hope the American people will hold accountable at the voting booth those who sought to undermine their freedoms to pursue anti-American policy.
We are your representatives, elected to serve you, the people, and have been put here to protect your rights. As we've seen in the last few weeks, your vigilance of the law and the votes of those who write it is essential to the preservation of our Republic. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
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