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Celebrating the Fourth by Remembering the Fifth | The Nation

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Celebrating the Fourth by Remembering the Fifth

Other than consuming copious amounts of beer and barbecue food, what can Americans do on the Fourth of July to celebrate their freedom? Erwin Knoll, the late editor of The Progressive, used to pin a copy of the Bill of Rights to a tree at the parties he hosted. I'm not hosting any parties, and I'll spare you a virtual posting of the entire Bill of Rights, save for the Fifth Amendment, which merits special attention because Democrats and Republicans seem to have forgotten what it says. Here, then, is the forgotten fifth:

 

 

No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

 

Many of us thought due process was going to be recognized as part of the Constitution again when Barack Obama was elected President. Unfortunately, as Charlie Savage of The New York Times reminded us this week, it's looking increasingly like Obama is leaning toward detaining terrorism suspects without trial even after Guantanomo is shut down (if it ever is), among other policies eerily reminiscent of his predecessor's. The most chilling quote in Savage's article came from Jack Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School, who suggested Obama is putting a bipartisan stamp on detention and surveillance policies that liberals and Democrats overwhelmingly opposed when Bush was in office. "What we are watching is a liberal, centrist, Democratic version of the construction of these same governing practices," said Balkin of Obama's approach.

That's not "Change We Can Believe In." It is alarming and, as all progressives should remind themselves on Independence Day, profoundly un-American.

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