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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention.  President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd.  Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.

Michael Miller


By Michael Miller
1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing

Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination for Governor in 1958 was partly an upstate revolt against the continued domination of party affairs by the Nassau Republican organization. Rockefeller was a man who always had bigger fish to fry, and throughout his almost 15 years as governor, he often went out of his way not to step on the toes of the touchy Nassau GOP. That’s why Nassau is the only large New York county without a state office building. Respect the turf.

Just before taking office, Rockefeller announced that State Senator William Hults would be Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, but not until the end of the 1959 legislative session, so that Glen Cove, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and a sliver of Hempstead wouldn’t lose their Senate representation until 1960.

Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’

The Nassau County district attorney’s (DA) office makes a cameo appearance in Empty Mansions, an incredible book about Huguette Clark (1906-2011), the Manhattan-raised heiress whose generosity and eccentricities were legendary.

Now that Ryan Murphy, a creator of television’s “Glee,” has optioned Empty Mansions’ film rights, I imagine a scrum of top actresses are vying to play Clark.

Detaining Americans

One very controversial portion of the Defense Authorization Bill signed by President Obama at the end of last December contained a provision to allow the federal government to detain, indefinitely, United States citizens who are suspected of terrorism. At the heart of the controversy is the U.S. Constitution.

The new law gives the military more authority to detain and interrogate both U.S. citizens and non-citizens. Under the new law, such detainees can be denied legal rights provided by the Constitution. Now, President Obama has stated, “I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”

Just what is this all about? As you may recall, enemy combatants have been detained at Guantanamo (GITMO) for some time. President Obama’s efforts to close GITMO have not been successful with both sides of the aisle wanting to maintain the prison there, which holds people like the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

It is interesting to note that back in 2004, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the military can hold a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant so long as the person being held has the right to procedurally challenge whether he or she is truly an “enemy combatant.”

In the 2004 Supreme Court case, Hamdi was a U.S. citizen of Saudi descent who was captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan. The ruling meant that he could be detained so long as he was given the opportunity to have due process applied to the question as to whether he was an enemy combatant.

What we have here is a balance between the security of our nation and individual rights under the U.S. Constitution. There are three areas of the Constitution where the Supreme Court ruled in the 2004 case – Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

First, we have to take a look at the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. It states that, “In all criminal prosecutions the accused should enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…”

Next, in the Fourteenth Amendment, it states that all citizens are entitled to “…due process of law…” From these points, it can well be argued that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments should apply to all U.S. citizens whether they are or are not enemy combatants.

But, there is one other provision of the Constitution found in Article 1, Section 8. That part of our Constitution gives to the Congress the power to “…provide for the common defense…” The section goes on to say that the Congress has the power, “To declare War … and make Rules concerning Captives on Land and Water;”

With all of the above, we come back to the issue of security for our country in these times of terrorists – some homegrown Americans… and the due process of law for U.S. citizens. My view is that if a court holds that an American citizen is truly an enemy combatant, that individual should be detained for the best interests of the country. Our security is at the heart of these thoughts.