May 26, 2019

Jury nullification, not a pardon for Edward Snowden

TAMPA, June 10, 2013 – The whistleblower who has risked his life and his freedom to expose the NSA’s domestic spying program has fled to Hong Kong. Caught red-handed violating one of the most fundamental limits on its power, codified in the Fourth Amendment, the federal government has responded predictably. It wants to prosecute its accuser.

While mainstream conservatives call for Hong Kong to extradite Snowden for trial, libertarian and civil libertarian groups have started a petition to get him pardoned. That’s the wrong solution.

Pardons are for people who have already been convicted. No jury with any sense of justice should allow that to happen.

Yes, there are plenty of laws that Edward Snowden probably broke, but as Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The law is often but the tyrant’s will.” Never was that truer than it is now.

You could also argue that Snowden broke a contract he entered into when accepting this employment and the security clearances that go with it. That’s probably true, but so did the federal government. It broke the contract known as the U.S. Constitution.

If the so-called “Justice Department” is successful in having Snowden extradited to the United States, he will have a jury trial. The jury will be instructed by a federal judge that their one and only responsibility is to weigh the facts and to determine whether there is sufficient proof that Snowden committed the acts alleged in the indictment. They will be instructed to consider nothing else in reaching a verdict. That leaves one question.

Who cares what the judge says?

Everyone on that jury will know why Snowden is being persecuted. It’s not like he sold defense secrets to a foreign enemy during a time of war. He told the American people about how their own government was spying on them. The juror who renders a guilty verdict in this case is betraying his country, not Edward Snowden.

At one time, juries were informed of their right to consider the justice of the law itself in addition to the facts of the case. If they believed they were being asked to convict a defendant of an unjust law, they were free to acquit the defendant.

They still are. They just aren’t told so by state or federal judges any more. That doesn’t change the fact that if a jury acquits Edward Snowden, there is absolutely nothing that the government can do about it. They can’t appeal a not guilty verdict. They can’t charge him again for the same crimes. The case is over and the people trump the government. That’s how it is supposed to work.

It’s equally important that there is no recourse against the jury, either. It’s not as if they can be prosecuted for rendering a verdict the government doesn’t like. Acquittal by a jury is as final as it gets. The government may try to drum up some other charges against the defendant, but they usually take their best shot first and the next jury could nullify as well.

The only question left is this: Are Americans so devoid of any sense of personal liberty, so completely brainwashed to obey authority without question that they would convict a man who has risked everything to defend their freedom?

I am calling on every eligible juror in America to take a stand right now. If you are called to serve on a jury for the trial of Edward Snowden, do not convict. I don’t care if he’s broken a thousand laws. We know what he did and why he did it. It is his accuser that needs to be put on trial, whether at the ballot box, in state assemblies or by other constitutional means. Let this government know that those who defend the U.S. Constitution against a government that violates it are safe in this country.

The line must be drawn here.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

James Madison and the Making of America: The real story of the early American republic

TAMPA, June 1, 2012 – Everyone has their version of the founding fathers and the U.S. Constitution. The most common is that the British colonies rebelled against their king because of “taxation without representation” and formed an independent republic. Their first try at a government didn’t work, so the best and the brightest among them met in Philadelphia and devised a new one. United in their desire to “form a more perfect union,” the delegates placed their trust in the “father of the Constitution,” James Madison, who masterfully wove “checks and balances” into a document that codified the limited government principles he would fight for the rest of his life.

That’s a nice, sentimental story, but the real one is far more interesting. If you want to know what really happened, then pick up a copy of James Madison and the Making of America by Kevin R. C. Gutzman.

Meticulously researched using primary and secondary sources, Gutzman’s book covers most of Madison’s life, concentrating on his key role in bringing about the constitutional convention and subsequent ratification of the Constitution itself. Gutzman follows the Philadelphia Convention almost day by day, managing to keep the story downright riveting without resorting to the “historical novel” format popular in recent decades. While doing so, he blows up just about every myth about Madison, his colleagues and the Constitution.

Continue at Washington Times Communities…

A Modest Proposal for Interposition

So, the Tea Party Congress is seated and the “revolution” is underway. After voting to repeal Obamacare, a largely symbolic gesture that has no hope of passing in the Senate or overturning a presidential veto, the new Congress has outlined its plan to attack the federal deficit. The result: A proposal to cut $100 billion in “non-defense discretionary spending.” While that may sound like a lot of money to someone who hasn’t taken a gander at the federal budget in about 50 years, it amounts to a little under seven percent of this year’s deficit.

That’s right. Seven percent of the deficit, not the budget. In other words, the tea parties, the stormy town hall meetings, the supposed “mandate from the people” to cut the size and scope of the federal government will result in the government spending $1,380 billion more than it collects in taxes this year instead of $1,480 billion more. Worse yet, the same people who “stormed the Bastille” and threw the former bums out will defend this proposal with half-hearted panaceas like “you have to start somewhere.”

However, if history has taught us anything, it is that this isn’t “just the beginning,” with more substantial cuts to follow. This will be the high water mark as far as reduction in government spending is concerned. We should expect that by the time that this proposal goes through the process of back room deals and compromises with special interest-motivated committee members, that the $100 billion number will be reduced by at least half, perhaps more. They may even end up increasing federal spending. Would anyone honestly be surprised?

It has been obvious for at least a century that “throwing the bums out” doesn’t make a lick of difference in the behavior of our elected officials. Now we know that staging protests, waving signs, raising a ruckus at town hall meetings, and then throwing the bums out doesn’t make a difference either. Clearly, it is time to stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The nullification movement has been decried by the left as right wing extremism at its most dangerous, despite the fact that it was conceived and introduced by Thomas Jefferson, the father of the Democratic Party. However, I have a proposal that I believe both conservative and liberal Americans would find very reasonable. There is a way to use the idea of state interposition to force the Congress to at least listen to its constituents. Let’s put the idea of interposition together with another of Jefferson’s ideas, drafted by him in a resolution of the Continental Congress in 1775 in response to Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposal.

“That this privilege of giving or of withholding our monies is an important barrier against the undue exertion of prerogative, which if left altogether without our control may be excercised to our great oppression; and all history shews how efficacious is its intercession for redress of greivances and reestablishment of rights, and how improvident it would be to part with so powerful a mediator.”

Let me be clear. As opposed as I am to all taxation, I am not suggesting that one dollar be cut from the existing tax schedule for 2011. What I am suggesting is that the people exercise their right to withhold their taxes until the Congress does what the people have clearly mandated them to do – balance the budget. A seven percent cut in the deficit just isn’t enough and we are running out of time. We can argue later about the role of government and the wars in the Middle East and Social Security and the rest. Right now we have to take away this Congress’ ability to borrow any more money or we’re going to be in the same boat as Greece.

I am not calling upon people to exercise civil disobedience or rebel. The stakes are high in either of those endeavors and we have other options. I am calling upon people to utilize their state legislatures to support them in withholding their taxes until a balanced budget is passed by Congress. As much as I’d personally like to see them withhold their tax money permanently, they would then release the funds to the federal government.

This would be accomplished in the same way as several other recent nullification/interposition efforts. The state legislatures would pass a law indicating that no person or business in their state could be prosecuted or fined by the federal government for failing to file an income tax return or failing to pay their quarterly payroll tax deposits, so long as said filings and payments were made within sixty days of the Congress passing a balanced federal budget. For those who still trust the people less than they do the government, a stipulation could be added that the funds go into escrow and be audited by the states, if necessary.

This would accomplish two things. First, it would reestablish exactly who works for who in this relationship. Obviously, elections have failed to do that. More importantly, it would work. The blind fear that would grip our legislators when they realize that the party is really over would at least scare them sober enough to balance what would still be an over $2 trillion budget. While it wouldn’t solve our long-term problems, that truly would be a start.

Bloated governments are imploding all over the world and ours is poised to do likewise for all of the same reasons. Now that we have seen what “extremism” really looks like in Greece, Egypt, and Tunisia, this proposal should strike any rational person as reasonable and moderate. We do not need a rebellion or violence to balance the federal budget – just a little adult supervision.

Check out Tom Mullen’s hit book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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© Thomas Mullen 2011

>A Crisis of Legitimacy

>There came a point between last year’s criminal bailout of the financial sector and the latest theft of $30 billion more to throw on the AIG bonfire that further acts of armed robbery by this government against its people ceased to matter, at least for me. It is not that I have thrown up my hands and given up. Far from it. Rather, I see the acceleration in both the frequency and the size of the bailouts for what they are – the death struggle of a drowning regime, flailing its arms as the water enters its lungs. With each new bailout and subsequent addition to its mountain of debt, the regime loses a little more of the only oxygen it has left – its legitimacy in the eyes of its people.

Legitimacy is the recognition by its people that their government is their rightful government, that the power it wields is legitimate power. In a free society, our Declaration of Independence tells us that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed. As I’ve discussed before, the philosophy that inspired the founding of our nation asserts that such consent is given by a free people for only one reason: protection of their property. Thus, the legitimacy of the government of a free people only endures as long as that government continues to protect the property of its citizens. Once it ceases to protect property – or begins to attack and plunder property – it ceases to exercise legitimate power, for it no longer has the consent of the governed.

For those who understand these simple principles of liberty, the government of the United States lost its legitimacy decades ago. While there are many convincing arguments for an even earlier date, certainly after 1913 the matter was settled conclusively. It was in 1913 that the United States ceased to be a republic with a government whose purpose was to protect the property of the individual and became a social democracy with a government whose purpose was to plunder the property of the individual for “the good of society,” or “the general will,” if you prefer the language of the statist Rousseau. The good of society was, of course, defined by the state – the plunderer – eliminating any possibility that some inadvertent benefit might befall the governed. The good of society was defined as the twin statist pillars of tyranny that still dominate our society today: to achieve economic equality at home and to make the world safe for democracy abroad. These remain the two goals of the America democratic empire, espoused by both major political parties.

In order to achieve these ends, individual liberty – the only liberty– must be sacrificed. Why? Because in order to attempt to achieve the two pillars the state must attack the means and the tangible stuff of liberty – property. That is why in 1913, along with the new philosophy, came the insidious Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, and the 17th Amendment. These were the tools with which the new social democracy plundered the property of the individual in order to achieve its goals. Once the individual lost the right to the fruits of his labor, he lost his liberty, for there cannot be one without the other.

Certainly, the free enterprise juggernaut that was created by the former republic continued to thunder forward. However, it was now progressing under the weight of the coercive power of the state, which constantly attacked it, rather than under the rightful protection of the state, which had previously acted only in defense of property. The drag on free enterprise was light at first, but relentless in its growth. While America enjoyed good decades and bad after 1913, the seeds of systemic failure were sown, and the end to which we have now come inevitable.

This argument certainly begs the question of why the 1913 coup was a bloodless one. Why would a nation “conceived in liberty” quietly allow the very core of their liberty to be taken from them? The answer is that it was not taken from them, but given away. One must remember that the power in a democracy lies in the majority. This is where the significance of the 17th Amendment comes into play. This was the masterstroke of the new social democracy. By giving more “power to the people,” and eliminating the key check on federal power that the state legislatures possessed when they chose U.S. senators instead of popular vote, it was then a simple matter for the federal government to buy the liberty of the people. They deftly picked the pocket of an unsuspecting public by relieving them of their property (and therefore their liberty) by promising them other people’s property. This was the deal with the devil that was offered to the American people, and they took it. For those who objected, the two pillars were there to be thrown in their faces, with a hundred million voters to shout them down. As the Star Wars III character so eloquently put it, “So this is how liberty dies – to thunderous applause.”

So, at that point, the link between legitimacy and property rights was broken. Legitimacy remained dependent upon the consent of the governed, but after 1913 the American public no longer consented to government for protection of their property. Increasingly over the ensuing decades, that consent was given in return for the promise of other people’s property. Inevitably, “progress” for society became defined as the extent to which property could be stolen from one group and redistributed to another – at home through social programs, regulation, and other “economic policy” and abroad through military adventurism and empire-building. It should be obvious to the reader that this type of “progress” can only lead to the prospect that we may soon face ourselves: no property, and thus no liberty, at all.

One might be tempted to despair that a thousand years of tyranny awaits us. However, there is one flaw in the social democracy’s model: it is unsustainable. It has lived off of the productive capacity of the former republic for almost 100 years, but in that time the parasite has killed off the host. There are now a few in the minority that argue that government shouldn’t destroy the property rights of the individual in pursuit of the two pillars. What will become obvious very soon is that government cannot achieve its goals in this way. The model depends upon a productive element in society supplying the property needed for plunder, but without liberty there is eventually no productivity either. This is why empires fall, and for no other reason.

Thus, since the government’s legitimacy is now based upon its ability to provide its citizens with other people’s property, and because it will soon no longer be able to do so, it will obviously soon lose its legitimacy. Without legitimacy, regimes fall. If the surrealism of a government spending staggering sums of money in its last death throes has not hit home to the average American, the first medical claim unpaid for lack of funds under one of its socialist medical programs, the first Social Security check that bounces, or the first time a local welfare department closes its doors will spur this epiphany. If nothing so dramatic occurs (we do, in the end, have a printing press), then there will come a day – and that day is months or years away, not decades – that tens of millions of unemployed Americans are going to wake up and realize that the government’s promise of security via other people’s property was false. Then, the regime will fall.

Lest one assume that there is no work to be done by the majority of Americans, let us not create new illusions to replace the old ones. History shows that a corrupted people that throws off the tyranny of an oppressive government can only create something worse in its place. We must face the fact that the American people are corrupted – not because they drink too much liquor, have too much sex, or don’t go to church – but because they have lost all recognition of the rights of their fellow human beings to the fruits of their labor. The French Revolution should serve as a perfect example to Americans at this point in history. While the French rightly threw off the tyranny of a government that plundered their property, they merely transferred the privilege of plunder to themselves, all for the misguided cause of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” The result, as we know, was a bloody reign of terror.

We will achieve similar results with our own revolution without a change of ideology. We must reject entirely the notion that we have any right whatsoever to the property of others, and restore our founding principles as the organizing principles of our society. Should we again base our government on its original purpose of protecting property, we will once more secure the blessings of liberty and resume the pursuit of happiness. The true “time for choosing” is coming soon.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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