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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Feinstein-Lee amendment to prevent the indefinite detention of American citizens without a trial by jury. In the year 1215, the English barons gathered on the plain at Runnymede. They gathered to protest against King John. They gathered for their rights as free men. And they gathered for the right to trial by jury. We have had it enshrined in both English law and American law for 800 years. It seems a shame to scrap it now.

People say: But these terrorists are horrible people. Yes, they are horrible people. But every day and every night in our country horrible people are accused of crimes, and they are taken to court. They have an attorney on their side. They are given a trial. People we despise, people who murder and rape, are given trials by juries. We can try and we can prosecute terrorists.

People say: But they are terrorists. Well, the thing is, you are an American citizen and you are accused of terrorism. Who is going to determine who is a terrorist and who is not a terrorist? They do not walk around with a badge. They do not walk around with a card that says: I am from al-Qaida. They will be accused of a crime, and there will be facts. Someone must judge the facts. That is what a jury does.

To give up on this because we are afraid of terrorists is to give in to the terrorists. If we give up our rights, if we relinquish our rights, haven't the terrorists then won?

Jefferson said the right to trial by jury was the ``anchor,'' it was the anchor by which we protect ``the principles of the Constitution.''

Senator La Follette, a Senator from Wisconsin, said if we give up these rights, if we are unable to protect these rights, that ultimately the Bill of Rights loses its value.

He said:

Let no man think that we can deny civil liberty to others and retain it for ourselves. When zealot agents of the governments 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. .....

I would ask today of my colleagues that we have a chance to replace fear with confidence--confidence that no terrorist will ever conquer us if we remain steadfast to our principles--the principles of our Founders. We have nothing to fear except our own unwillingness to protect our rights. If we relinquish our right to trial by jury, we will have given up so much. Do not let those who would instill fear let you give up the most basic of rights--a right that prevents the oppression of government and the evolution or devolution into despotism.

So I hope my colleagues will today vote to uphold an 800-year-old tradition, a tradition that is enshrined in the body of our Constitution, a tradition that is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, and a tradition that is in every constitution of all 50 States. Are we to give that up because we are fearful? We can and have convicted terrorists. We are not talking about terrorists from overseas. We are not talking about a battlefield somewhere else. We are talking about American citizens accused in our country.

Why should you be wary? The government has descriptions of who might be a terrorist. If you have 7 days' of food in your basement, you might be a terrorist. If you have weatherized ammunition, you might be a terrorist. This is what your government describes as things you should report. Know your neighbor to report your neighbor. If you have weatherized ammunition, multiple guns, food in your basement, if you like to pay by cash--if these are the characteristics for which you might be accused of terrorism, would you not, at the very least, still want to retain your right as an American citizen to a right to a trial by a jury of your peers?

I ask that we step up today and support an ancient tradition. And I worry about a country that would let a tradition like the right to trial by jury go so easily.

Thank you, Mr. President.


Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, even though my colleagues sometimes appear to have disdain for the trial by jury, it now appears they are supporting the right to trial by jury, and so I congratulate them on their conversion. However, I think they are still a little confused on Hamdi.

Hamdi had to do with a citizen fighting overseas and nothing to do with a citizen here. I have great confidence that the Supreme Court, given a ruling on the right to trial by jury, will affirm the right to trial by jury whether they were appointed by Ronald Reagan or President Obama. So we will have that fight on another day.

I will say, though, that our oath of office says we will defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic.

I met with cadets this week and they asked me, What is the freedom we fight for? The freedom we fight for is the Bill of Rights, is the Constitution. If we have careless disregard for the Constitution, what are we fighting for?

I will tell you, since I know the record of this debate will be widely read, I want to make formal objection to the crazy bastard standard. I don't think if we are going to have a crazy bastard standard that we shouldn't have a right to trial by jury. Because if we are going to lock up all the crazy bastards, for goodness sake, would you not want, if you are a crazy bastard, to have a right to trial by jury?

I think this is a very serious debate and should not be made frivolous. This is an ancient right that we have defended for 800 years. To say that habeas is due process is absurd. It is the beginning of due process. If you don't have a right to trial by jury, you do not have due process. You do not have a constitution. What are you fighting against and for if you throw the Constitution out, if you throw the sixth amendment out? It is in the body of our Constitution. It is in the Bill of Rights. It is in every Constitution in the United States. Trial by jury has been a longstanding and ancient and noble right. Let's not scrap it now.

I will accept victory today. I hope we will win victory and reaffirm the right to trial by jury. But let's don't play any games with any aspect and believe that any Supreme Court in the United States, whether appointed by Republican or Democrat, is going to say that an American citizen does not have a right to trial by jury.


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