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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I rise to support Senator Feinstein's amendment. I compliment her on her work. I also echo the importance of the right to trial by jury. In fact, I am appalled that anyone would think we could arrest anyone in our country without charging them and giving them a right to a trial. It seems so fundamentally un-American.

I agree with her also that I think the Supreme Court would apply this to anyone. Our amendment will say citizens and permanent residents. But I think the Supreme Court, if challenged, will uphold the right to trial by jury of anyone within the United States.

Today, we will either affirm the right to trial by jury or restrict it. Today, we will vote to affirm the sixth amendment to the Constitution or we will spurn it. Today, we will vote to affirm 800 years of history, beginning with the Magna Carta, or we will relinquish or, at the very least, diminish a right that Jefferson referred to as ``the only anchor yet imagined by man, which a government can be held to the principles of its Constitution.'' The right to trial by jury was a check on oppressive government.

Opponents of the right to trial by jury will come and they will argue that the American homeland is now a battlefield and that we must circumscribe our right to trial by jury to be safe from terrorists. But if we give up our rights, have not the terrorist won? If we let fear relinquish our rights--if we relinquish our rights because of fear, what is it exactly then we are fighting for?

We are asked to relinquish our rights because the battlefield is limitless. It is, though, not a temporary suspension they are asking for, and they request this because they also say the battle is also without limit. This is not a war that is going to end, nor is it a right they will suspend temporarily. They are asking people to relinquish their right to trial by jury for the rest of this limitless war.

Those Senators who would propose limiting the right to trial by jury, they deflect and demur that everyone will still have a habeas hearing. A habeas hearing is important. They must present the body and a judge might say: Why are you holding this person? But it is not the end of due process; it is the beginning of due process.

A habeas hearing is not due process. It is the beginning. We must still have a trial by jury or we do not have the due process our Founding Fathers fought for. Those Senators who would abridge this and say a habeas hearing is enough should remember Blackstone's admonition, ``Every new tribunal, erected for the decision of facts without the intervention of a jury ..... is a step towards establishing aristocracy, the most oppressive of absolute governments.''

We are told we cannot do this. We have to put these people outside the constitutional court, that somehow we need something beyond the Constitution, that the Constitution is not enough to convict terrorists. Yet hundreds of terrorists have been convicted. In fact, two terrorists in my little small town, Bowling Green, KY, were apprehended and were tried and were convicted to life for terrorism. We can do it.

We are told that only terrorists associated with al-Qaida will this be applied to. We will only take away the right to trial by jury if they are part of al-Qaida. But part of the security apparatus also tells us to know your neighbor. Know your neighbor so you can report your neighbor.

In fact, we are told by the government some of the characteristics that might make you a terrorist. We are told by the Department of Justice that if you have stains on your clothing, that if you are missing fingers, if you have changed the color of your hair recently, that if you prefer to pay in cash, that if you own weatherized ammunition, if you own multiple guns, you might be a terrorist; that your neighbor should report you.

Do we want to relinquish our right to trial by jury if the characteristics of terrorism are wanting to pay by cash? In Missouri, they had fusion centers. They are supposed to accumulate information about terrorists and sort of assimilate Federal and local and have better communications.

Sounds good. I am all for better communications. Before 9/11 we did mess up. We did not communicate well. But from this fusion center comes a document that says: Beware of people who have bumper stickers supporting third-party candidates, beware of people who believe in stricter immigration laws, beware of people who support the right to life; they might be terrorists. This is an official document. Do we want to give up the right to trial by jury when we are being told someone who keeps food in their basement might be a terrorist?

Am I the only one who fears the relinquishing of a right we have had for 800 years? Am I the only one who fears that a terrorist might be someone whom we might describe as someone who is a constitutionalist? This is an ancient right to trial by jury we have had since virtually the beginning of our historic times. The Greeks and the Romans had a form of right to trial by jury.

In 725 A.D., Morgan of Glamorgan, the Prince of Wales, said, ``For as Christ and his Twelve Apostles were finally to judge the world, so human tribunals should be composed of twelve wise men.'' We have been doing this for hundreds upon hundreds of years. We saw it as a way to check the oppression of the King but also to check the potential oppression of government.

England and America have for centuries prized this right to trial by jury. It seems a shame to scrap it now. Our Founders believed so firmly in the right to trial by jury that they enshrined it in the body of the Constitution, again in this sixth amendment and again every State of the Union has within the body of its constitution the right to trial by jury.

It seems a shame to scrap it now. Churchill proudly remembers our joint devotion to trial by jury. He writes, ``We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, trial by jury and the English common law find their most famous expression in the Declaration of Independence.''

Senator Lafollette, a famous Senator from Wisconsin, put it well. He said:

Let no man think that we can deny civil liberty to others and retain it for ourselves. When zealot agents of the government arrest suspected radicals without warrant, hold them without prompt trial, deny them access to counsel and admission of bail ..... we have shorn the Bill of Rights of its sanctity .....

Today we have a chance to reaffirm our belief in the right to trial by jury. We have a chance to replace fear with confidence, confidence that no terrorist and no country will ever conquer us if we remain steadfast, steadfast to the principles of our founding documents.

We have nothing to fear except our own unwillingness to defend what is naturally ours, our God-given rights. We have nothing to fear that should cause us to relinquish our rights as free men and women.

I urge my colleagues to reject fear, to reject the siren call for an ever more powerful government.

Justice White put it well when he said:

A right to jury trial is granted criminal defendants in order to prevent the oppression by the government.

It is not just about a fair trial, it is about checking your government. This vote today is about more than just combating terrorism or a fair trial, it is about relinquishing the right to the checks and balances, to the checks that cause and help us to check the relentless growth of government. It is about whether a free people are willing to remain steadfast in our defense of an 800-year-old right that finds justice for the accused and provides restraint and limits on despotism.

I hope my colleagues will today vote against limitations on the trial by jury, recognize its sanctity, and recognize the importance of something that brings Members from the right side of the aisle together with Members of the left side of the aisle who believe strongly in the defense of the Bill of Rights.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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