Proposed resolution is stalled
County will not tell the feds a law is “unconstitutional”
Laurens County will not go on record as declaring “unconstitutional” a federal law that allows domestic terrorists to be arrested and held by the military.
Council member Stewart Jones brought the resolution to the council meeting last Tuesday night. It was listed as agenda item “Restoring Constitutional Governance Resolution,” and Council Chairman Joe Wood said he had done some research about the issue presented in the resolution.
As the presentation started, however, County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks reserved the right to comment at the end. Jones and Dan Johnson, national director of People Against the NDAA, made the presentation, and when they concluded, Cruickshanks told the council, “You are not a judge. You don’t have that authority.”
Jones and Johnson wanted the council to adopt a resolution saying the federal NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) – the law which after 9-11-2001 allowed the U.S. military to act as a police force in Afghanistan – is unconstitutional. A federal judge has made that ruling, but her action has been stayed.
“You cannot declare it unconstitutional,” Cruickshanks said. “If you change (the resolution), we can agree, we can acknowledge the court’s ruling.”
Cruickshanks and Jones agreed to work on the wording and bring the resolution back to the council. Johnson continued to argue for the resolution as written. Council member Ted Nash asked for his credentials, and Johnson said, as a citizen, he is entitled to question the validity of any United States law.
Johnson said counties in Massachusetts and Idaho have declared the federal law unconstitutional. He said now that a federal judge has ruled the law unconstitutional, it is proper for states and counties to declare it unconstitutional.
Johnson said the NDAA allows the federal government to take into custody any American citizen identified as a “domestic terrorist.” He said in other places, NDAA has been interpreted to mean members of The Tea Party, Black Lives Matter and Occupy USA are “domestic terrorists” – in fact, he said, anyone who speaks out against war can be labeled as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Wood said NDAA was “an Obamer law.” Johnson said Congress “forced his hand” by voting in favor of an expansion of NDAA, which the former president signed into law, inserting the “domestic terrorist” label. Johnson said every time there is a bill in Congress to change NDAA, it is blocked by one senator – Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Johnson said NDAA violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and other amendments ensuring that American citizens have judicial rights to due process. He said in the past, the military has been used as local police, often to disastrous results, like the Orangeburg Massacre of SC State University students demonstrating for civil rights.
Cruickshanks said he was not disputing that some aspects of the expanded NDAA are troublesome; he was advising the council that it has no legal authority to adopt this resolution as written. “We have to listen to our attorney,” Wood told Jones and Johnson.
Jones said he brought the council’s attention to this matter in 2012, before he was elected to the council. He said this is an important issue in the 803rd anniversary year of The Magna Carta, the first legal document guaranteeing citizens in England the right to a fair trial.
“The resolution asks the council to declare this law unconstitutional. That is a judicial function,” Cruickshanks said. “If you strike the first part, ‘Be It Resolved …’ I have no problem with it. Just strike ‘declare it unconstitutional.’”
“The military is not a police force,” Johnson said. “This resolution has been introduced in other communities and in the South Carolina Legislature. This law has been used to execute an American overseas. It has not yet been used to execute an American in this country.”
Council took no action on the resolution.