Part # 2: “The Creeping Culture of Secrecy”
(Designed for use during a Sabbath afternoon meeting - following potluck).
When I was just a lad, my father owned numerous apartment houses and building developments. One of the apartment complexes was adjacent to the house where Ellen White had her first vision. It was my task to mow the lawn and keep the grounds clean. I used to stop in the middle of my tasks and look up at the window where she had her first vision in South Portland, Maine. I used to muse about what it was like to be visionary.
Later, in my college and seminary career, I was deeply immersed in history. I spent a considerable amount of time attempting to detail with historical accuracy the beasts and time lines of Daniel and Revelation. I discovered that no matter how studious I was it was difficult to make the dates, events and beasts all tally, especially in Revelation. I simply never could seem to get the future all worked out. Then I read a statement from Scripture that set me on a new path. "When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth... and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13). Crunching historical data may point one in the right direction, but the “Spirit” is the true director. It was about this time that I ran across the statement that suggested a new avenue of discovery.
"Our country shall repudiate every principle of its constitution as a Protestant and Republican government..." 2
The question now became how could this be possible and what arcane methods could possibly be utilized to accomplish such a feat?
Gradually it became obvious that the visionary gift given to the church was as much about discerning the methodology by which the forces of evil work -- as discovering timelines. The pattern of history from creation of man plainly states that ancient sinister forces of the universe operate by the power of “Secrecy and Coercion.” In the Genesis story, the usurper to the throne of God was veiled as a "serpent" – “secrecy.” He had an “intellectually coercive agenda.” "Do you want to be like God?" Paul ran into the "Secret brethren” from the headquarters at Jerusalem - you want salvation, they queried, then join our club, be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses – this was “physically and intellectually coercive.” The crowd not led by the "Spirit” especially falls prey because Lucifer has been honing his “secret agenda” from eternity and his knowledge of how human nature functions has grown by quantum leaps. His first agenda was to deceive the angels. Next came Eve and his final agenda is to deceive the whole world. The “Spirit,” therefore, drives us to consider the "scene behind the scene." So if you get your information from the nightly news on radio or TV - that's the scene - not this scene behind the scene.
Now during this afternoon hour, we do not have time to examine the doctrine of “Executive Secrecy.” The Constitution grants the power of secrecy only to congress. It is obvious, however, that the Executive branch is also entitled to a degree of secrecy. For a thorough discussion of Presidential secrecy, I recommend a book entitled – Presidential Secrecy and the Law by Robert Pallitto and William Weaver.
What we can say is that the founders of our nation were aware of the power-crazy nature of humans. In order to keep humans, society and government in check, they created three branches of the federal government. Each branch was to exercise checks and balances on the other branch so that a balance of power could be maintained.
But Something Happened Recently
"9/11 catalyzed powers into a set of interlocking mechanisms that have transformed the executive branch inconsistent with the Constitution and the functioning of a democracy. The Presidential Powers of Secrecy are a powerful means of circumventing both Politics and the Constitution.”3
Dwight Nelson, in his 6th sermon in a series on the Sabbath entitled “A Test Very Simple and Visible,” quotes from the book Disasters and the Millennium concerning the three likely outcomes of a severe crisis like 9/11.
1. “Disaster creates conditions peculiarly fitted to the rapid alteration of belief systems” (Including the Constitution of the United States).
2. ”Disaster produces the questioning, the anxiety and the suggestibility that are required for change. Only in its wake are people moved to abandon old values of the past.”
3. “Belief systems which under non-disaster conditions might be dismissed - in a disaster we see sympathetic consideration.”
Following the 9/11 event, “57% of Americans said they would give up civil liberties for the sake of security.”4
Because of 9/11 we have been immersed in a climate and culture of change. Change, of course, can be for the better or the worse. Well, you say, I don't mind giving up my "Rights" for security. Have you considered what rights you might be surrendering? The rights Americans have been surrendering are the “body” of our freedom called "Habeas Corpus" - the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th amendments. This includes the right to be “secure in your home, the right against unreasonable searches, that no warrants may be issued without “probable cause” against you, the right to a speedy and public trial by your peers, and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without “due process.” Have you considered the consequences the results if these “rights” are forfeited for a security which the government of a free society can never guarantee? There are modern sinister and secret forces at work. Well, perhaps we need to listen to the list presented in the book "Presidential Secrecy" of the "Rights" which have already been challenged. Here is a list of potential “Abuses of Power”
1. “Secret" military tribunals have been created.
2. "Secret" court proceedings closed to the public have been ordered.
3. “A massive detention of aliens has been directed.”
4. “Detainees have been denied access to counsel and courts”
"Secrecy" has been exercised for an astounding array of material and operations.
5. “ Adequate response to congressional inquiries has been refused.”
6. “ Intrusive investigations and surveillance of citizens - known as "wireless wire tapping has been ordered" - in contradiction to FISA declarations.
“These have created a fundamental constitutional shift in favor of “Presidental power.”5
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that (warrantless wiretapping) “undisputedly violates the Fourth Amendment. . .violates the First Amendment, and violates the separation of powers. . .the Constitution itself has been violated”6
Now citizens expect the Executive branch to maintain security, which often can only be accomplished through "secrecy." Citizens also expect, however, that all branches of the Government will be held accountable for direct violations of the Constitution known as “abuses of power.”
“The current administration has made unprecedented claims of executive powers of "secrecy" Powers to withhold information from Congress, the courts, and the public.”7
There has been a secret revision of the “Posse Comitatus Act.” (Prohibits the use of military force to enforce civilian law.) The New York Times reports: ”Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack, or to any ‘other condition.’ These new Presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate.”8
There is a lot of justifiable anger in the nation because of this. "Angered by the administration's unwillingness to share information and to divulge the activities it takes in the name of national security, members of both sides of the aisle object to what they regard as a ‘policy of secrecy.’"9
"This is not simply an academic discussion, the constitutionally unacceptable prospect of civilians being detained and tried by military authorities is an all too real nightmare that many have had to endure over the past seven years." 10
Think of it this way a trial by "peers” is a trial by citizens like you, who, by the way, give this nation the right to exist – this represents the noblest tradition of a government by "We the People.” A trial by military tribunal is a trial by military judges who are under the direct authority of the president of the United States. This nation has never permitted civilians to be tried by military courts - unless civilian courts were not available.
Al Marri, a civilian, was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois in December, 2001. He was whisked away from civilian authorities in 2003 when the government presented the federal court with an order signed by the president designating Al Marri as an “enemy combatant.” He was transferred to military custody where he has been detained for nearly 5 years awaiting trial by a military tribunal. A 4th circuit panel has ruled, however (by a majority of 2-1) that the military has no jurisdiction. Their opinion was that "The Constitution does not provide the president the power to exercise military authority over civilians within the United States.” This represents an "Abuse of Power.” “If this ruling is reversed on hearing, the Supreme Court will be called to stand up to the executive branch and re-assert the historical role of the courts in protecting civilians from military rule."11
The 4th circuit panel court said: “A fundamental principle is at stake. Military detention of someone who has lawfully entered the US... presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain a (Civilian) citizen even if the president called them enemy combatants would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution -- and country." 12
This is the “scene behind the scene” the “secrecy seen.” A most disturbing thought to consider is what would be the result if the Supreme Court overturns the ruling of the fourth circuit panel court? John Whitehead of the Rutherford institute believes the following: “The ruling will likely be overturned by the full 4th circuit court and the Supreme Court will probably uphold the reversal”13
The “Military Commission Act of 2006” passed by the Congress and signed by the president can take away the “right file” claims of Habeas Corpus which means (detainees) can be held indefinitely. “A number of legal scholars and congressional members - including Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Arlen Specter (RPA) have said that the habeas provision of the act violates a clause of the Constitution that says the right to challenge detention “shall not be suspended” except in cases of “rebellion or invasion.”14
It is interesting to note that while Senator Specter questioned the legality of the act, he voted for it anyway. This shouts concerning the problems that political polarization present to our nation and the effacing of the constitution. This Act ignores numerous rights extended to detainees in the Geneva Convention. Perhaps we might conclude that the “lamb” has begun to roar and that Babylon has begun to bubble.
The result of "Secrecy and Coercion" is that “The groundwork (is being laid) for a new kind of Government where it will no longer matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what . . .whoever happens to be occupying the oval office . . .thinks”15
There are large constitutional issues left to be considered. May the President proceed alone in secrecy to protect civilian interests during wartime? Does the need for presidential secrecy preclude congressional or judicial oversight and render public debate unnecessary? The above issues have once again produced a climate for “change.” We hear words on the campaign trail like “yes we can”- can what? - “hope”- “hope for what?” - “for change”. – What kind of change? “Change we can believe in”!
Most who have been through the crisis’s of 9/11, 7 years of continuous war, the polarization of America, staggering national debt, sub prime home losses, devaluation of the dollar, gasoline gouging, and food inflation will do anything to accomplish “change.” It almost never occurs to a nation in emotional crisis that change can occur both for the better and the worse! The previous words quoted by Dwight Nelson are quite prophetic. “Disaster creates conditions particularly fitted to the rapid alteration of belief systems.”16 Perhaps this is why we are led to give renewed credence to the thought that “the final events will be rapid ones.”
The stakes are gigantic. For those who believe that the surrender of freedom is the best way to obtain safety at home, here is what Ben Franklin advised: "Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”17 The “First Amendment” was instituted to protect “Freedom of Conscience” and speech. The 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments better known as “Habeas Corpus” were created to protect our “physical safety.” They were designed to guarantee that our inalienable rights will not be removed without “due process.”
Christians who are led by the “spirit” must continue the struggle to maintain “freedom of conscience” and freedom from coercion, bondage, and final despotism against all the odds. It is true that we are contending against “flesh and blood” in the form of “secrecy, coercion and moral agendas” which lead to “bondage.” Often we can identify those who espouse such ideas. Let us remember that their power comes from the “world rulers of this present darkness”- legions who are the authors of “secrecy, coercion, and bondage.” Let us also recall that our power comes from the resurrected Christ who gives the “Spirit” to those who ask. The power of the Christian is the “Spirit of Freedom” from which we may not retreat.