Civil-liberties advocates have expressed serious concerns about the defense-funding bill that is working its way through Congress, which at one point contained a provision that would have authorized the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. Another provision in the bill would mandate that the detention of non-citizen terrorism suspects be handled by the military.
Fox Business host Andrew Napolitano discussed this story on his December 2 show. His segment was a case study in Fox's journalistic malpractice and how Fox pushes its viewers toward extremism.
Napolitano presents himself as a staunch defender of our liberties, so much so that he is not only willing to call vast swaths of the federal government unconstitutional, but part of the Constitution itself, as well. Napolitano is possessed of such a powerful anti-government paranoia that he believes the government is lying about 9-11.
Given this attitude, it makes sense that Napolitano's guest for the segment wasn't a legitimate civil-liberties advocate or a constitutional lawyer. Rather, it was Richard Mack, a member of the board of directors for Oath Keepers.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Oath Keepers are an organization that encourages "members of the military and law enforcement to pledge not to follow certain hypothetical 'orders' from the federal government" if they believe these orders don't comport with the Constitution. The New York Times described the Oath Keepers as "a new player in a resurgent militia movement," and the group was part of the "Friends for Liberty," a coalition that included the far-right John Birch Society and an anti-vaccination activist group.
Mack used the segment to suggest that local officials shouldn't obey orders from the federal government: "I hope every American is watching your show today and especially every sheriff and local official and governor that realize now that we cannot depend on our politicians in Washington D.C., and our leaders in Washington D.C., to do a simple thing and that is keep their oath and follow and defend the United States Constitution."
Not only did Napolitano host Mack to discuss a subject that deserves a much more serious examination than a leader of the anti-government fringe could possibly provide, but the actual news content of the segment was amazingly misleading.
During the segment, Napolitano gave no indication as to what happened to the detention provisions in the bill during negotiations in the Senate, which had voted on the bill the night before his show aired. As Mother Jones' Adam Serwer reported, the version of the bill that the Senate voted on was changed so that it doesn't specifically codify indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens into law. As Serwer wrote, "it leaves the question of domestic military detention open, leaving the matter for [the] Supreme Court to resolve should a future president decide to assert the authority to detain a US citizen on American soil."
The version voted on by the Senate also retains the provision that mandates military detention for non-citizen terrorism suspects.
Though Napolitano didn't mention that provision, it's hugely important from a news perspective. Why? Because the White House has threatened to veto legislation that contains such a provision. It released a statement last month making this clear, and as Serwer reported, White House press secretary Jay Carney repeated the veto threat during a briefing the same day that Napolitano's segment aired.
But if you watched Napolitano's show, you would have no clue about any of this.
If you're researching this issue, there is no way to miss these important, newsworthy facts. But they didn't make an appearance on Napolitano's show, because they don't fit in with Napolitano's narrative that President Obama is a tyrant who is bent on stealing every scrap of freedom that Americans have.
Below is transcript of the segment, from Nexis:
NAPOLITANO (on-camera): Imagine you're an American arrested by the United States military not by civilian law enforcement on U.S. soil. And imagine the military had the right to hold you forever. America is one step closer to that reality because the Senate last night voted 99-7 on a bill to authorize money for the defense department with provisions just like that in it.
Here with insights is Oath Keeper and constitutional defender, former sheriff, Richard Mack. Sheriff, it's a pleasure. Welcome here.
SHERIFF RICHARD MACK, FMR GRAHAM COUNTY SHERIFF: Thanks, judge. It's good to be with you. I'm sorry we're talking about such a horrible thing.
NAPOLITANO: What is becoming to the United States of America when on the floor of the United States Senate, senators can actually debate and vote on whether or not the president of the United States ought to be able to divert Americans away from the criminal justice system, and thus, away from their constitutional rights, ship them to a jail in Cuba, and hold them without bringing them before a judge or charging them with a crime?
MACK: They're starting to promulgate Patriot Act II, but I think this is even worse than the Patriot Act. I think James Madison called it correctly when he warned us that the greatest threat to our freedom would be our own government. And, he also had the solution. The states must now direct barriers against what the federal government is doing, judge
We have no other solution. It's obvious to every citizen in this country who's listening. I hope every American is watching your show today and especially every sheriff and local official and governor that realize now that we cannot depend on our politicians in Washington D.C. and our leaders in Washington D.C. to do a simple thing and that is keep their oath and follow and defend the United States constitution.
NAPOLITANO: All right. Sheriff --
MACK: They have now become enemies of the constitution.
NAPOLITANO: You have founded and promoted an organization called Oath Keepers. And just for viewers who may not be familiar with this, these our law enforcement officers who have taken an oath always to uphold the constitution even if a superior officer orders them to violate the constitution.
Question, will the United States military obey the government's orders and arrest American citizens and ship them to Guantanamo Bay or will they uphold their oath to uphold the constitution and defy the president? Remember, they did arrest people in the streets of Katrina. They didn't ship them to Guantanamo Bay, but they arrested them without charge and without warrant.
MACK: Yes, and they also had door-to-door gun confiscation during Katrina. And, I was actually -- I'm actually on the board of directors of Oath Keepers. The organization I founded was countysheriffproject.org., but it's the same premise.
Will we have sheriffs and local officials, law enforcement officers in this country that will actually when they swore an oath to uphold and defend the constitution do that against our own enemies in Washington D.C.? And judge, I'm sorry I have to call a spade-to-spade here, but this is exactly what our government has been.
We really had seven senators. That means Republicans and Democrats alike join this abomination known as SB 1867, which allows the military to come in and violate the Posse Comitatus and arrest American citizens without charges, without trial, just put them in Guantanamo or wherever.
And we've already had similar stuff coming from this administration when they killed al-Awlaki because they didn't like how he talked, so they said, well, you're not a citizen anymore so we can go and kill you now.
NAPOLITANO: That's the danger.
MACK: -- with our drone attackers.
NAPOLITANO: That's the danger.
MACK: Exactly, it is a danger.
NAPOLITANO: When the president can unilaterally decide you're no longer a citizen and the laws that protect you don't restrain me, then, we really, really have problems and maybe do have to look to the states for protection. Sheriff, you've got a lot of work ahead of you. Thank you for joining us. It's always a pleasure to have you.
MACK: Thanks so much, judge.