A Modest Proposal: Indefinitely Detain the Banksters

Obama has declared that he has the authority under the 2001 AUMF to indefinitely hold anyone “if it is necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States.”

He doesn’t say that person has to be a terrorist, much less part of al Qaeda. He doesn’t say that person has to have any tie to the enemy as defined by the 2001 AUMF, that is, “those nations, organizations, or persons [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” He doesn’t even say that person has to have been rounded up on a battle field, however you define that.

If detaining someone indefinitely is “necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States,” Obama says, he can do it.

So I say, fine! Let’s indefinitely detain the banksters that crashed our entire economy. They fairly routinely hold the workers and taxpayers of this country hostage these days, just like terrorists do. And when you account for the number of people they’ve left homeless and hungry, the damage they have done may well surpass that of the attack on 9/11. Clearly, the banksters are a “significant threat to the security of the United States”–they’re the biggest threat to the security of the US. And the genius of Obama’s EO is it doesn’t even require the detainees, themselves, represent a threat. Rather, if their detention is necessitated by the security threat, we can detain them. We don’t have to trouble with sorting the good banksters, like Jamie Dimon, from the bad banksters, like Dick Fuld. We can detain them all, just to make sure we don’t accidentally miss any. (Sorry Bill, we can’t take any risks, so this includes you too!)

Simple as that. Our biggest security threat solved!

Mind you, Obama’s Executive Order laying out this amazing limitless standard specifies that the EO only applies to “those detainees held at Guantanamo on the date of this order.”

But we all know that EOs don’t have to say what they mean. We know OLC ruled back in 2001 that, “There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.” We know Bush did just that–change the terms of an EO without changing the text, so none of us had warning we were being spied on. But when national security is threatened–our government has decided–it’s okay to change EOs with no warning.

So all Obama has to do to authorize the indefinite detention of the banksters that represent the biggest threat to our security right now is simply pixie dust his EO, and voila! He can round up the banksters, put them on some tropical island somewhere (I suspect they’ll feel right at home in the Cayman Islands).

It’s as easy as that, vanquishing a security threat, arbitrarily detaining people in the name of security forever.


  1. Mary says:

    You do mean – detain them naked in a military brig, right? After all, historic evidence exists that Banksters attempt suicide after crashing economies.


    • Cynthia Kouril says:

      Mary, you beat me to my comment.

      Great minds think alike.

      You go girl.

      Marcy love the irony, you know how much I enjoy irony

      • mzchief says:

        I thoroughly enjoy the humor The Marc-inator dishes out. I realize I am a bit more heavy handed. You can see that draws folks to my posts like skunks at a party.

  2. pdaly says:

    Sounds about right to me.

    However, even though Obama is like a modern day multi-armed Vishnu, I fear his anti-bankster arms are tied even if his other arms are free to perform other miracles with pixie dusted laws.

  3. behindthefall says:

    Welcome to your absolute monarchy. I guess this knocks us back to pre-Magna Carta years.

  4. Mary says:

    Actually – this is all making more and more sense to me. I just saw where Sheldon Whitehouse is now going to chair the Judiciary’s Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee


    with the stated goal of “protecting consumers and small businesses.” Apparently he’s going to lauch a full throated challenge to the Obama doctrine and push hard to … privatize forever detention centers so they can be run by small businesses and produce low cost consumer goods.

    Gotta love the Dems.

  5. orionATL says:

    revolutionary speech.

    it’s infectious.

    catch it!

    three stout blows against obama’s banker/terrorist hypocrisy.

    three cheers for emptywheel !!!

  6. MadDog says:

    From the Repug Chairman, Mike Rogers, of the HPSCI:

    Chairman Rogers Statement on White House Executive Order on Detainee Policy

    The head of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Mike Rogers (MI) today expressed his disappointment over President Obama’s Executive Order on Guantanamo Bay detainees.

    “Detainees are one of our best intelligence sources in the war on terrorism. We need a comprehensive system for intelligence gathering and long-term detention that is flexible and can endure changing circumstances, no matter where a detainee is picked up in the world. I am disappointed the White House chose to put another band-aid on this problem, rather than working with Congress to develop the comprehensive and long-term legislative framework we need. The ball is now in Congress’ court to develop that legislative framework.”

    As has been the case since he took office, no matter how much Obama cedes at the beginning of “negotiations” (even when negotiating with himself), the Repugs always insist on more.

    • lysias says:

      Even though Rep. Rogers said

      Detainees are one of our best intelligence sources in the war on terrorism.


      I see that he didn’t cite a single example of valid intelligence that detainees have given us.

  7. orionATL says:

    where to hold the banksters?

    the cayman’s would do fine, but thete’s room for rooms at gitmo ( or should that be “gotmo”), too.

    of course certain rules wpuld be necessary for these white-collar terrorists:

    -only allowed to wear underwear (pos)

    -not allowed any hats or sunscreen

    -kept in unshaded chain-link outdoor pens dubbedb “tellers’ cages” by the marine guards.

    -attempts to create sun shelter of any kind severely punished by marine guards

    -fed only lentils, pita bread, yogurt, and harrissa

    -allowed to pray to mamon or midas or count their money, bit only on fingers and toes (pos)

    -allowed to read adam smith and ayn rand

    -forbidden any access to the wall street journal

    -iphones, rolexes, patent-leather shoes are forbidden (pos)

    -kept at night in concrete-floored, cement block rooms with ac set at 60 degs

    -no pillow, no sheets, no blankets allowed (pos)

    let’s see, now, what have i forgotten?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The Caymans and Cuba are much too warm and bucolic, as are St. Kitts & Nevis and their kin in the Leeward and Windward isles. There are much less salubrious places in the Caribbean. Jamaica and Haiti have bits that would do nicely, though they’re not near the beach. The French used to have an excellent site for this sort of thing; it ought to work well for us, too. They haven’t used it much since the 1930’s, so it might need updating. That can all be done with free prison labor. Exhaustion, dehydration, hyperthermia and malaria being what they are, Mr. O will have to keep sending replacements. Given the legions of banksters and the steady supply of top B-school grads who have imbibed Jeffrey Skilling’s ethics since the cradle, that ought not be a problem.

      • PJEvans says:

        A nice island in the South Pacific, one of those that is threatened with inundation as the climate changes and sea level rises?

  8. Jeff Kaye says:

    Why make an executive order, one that transgresses upon established U.S. law and precedent, all for Guantanamo, where no new prisoners are headed?

    This is because they must not let the world, and especially the U.S. public, know what was done at Guantanamo, the torture and the use of prisoners as guinea pigs. But it will come out eventually. The EO states, as EW has pointed out:

    Sec. 2. Standard for Continued Detention. Continued law of war detention is warranted for a detainee subject to the periodic review in section 3 of this order if it is necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States.

    Notice, it does not say a significant external threat to the security of the United States. This is not an oversight, as the security of the United States is used as a shibboleth to hide cover-ups, and secrets kept from the American public. The threat to security could come from within, in their twisted minds.

    The U.S. used Guantanamo as a “laboratory” (their words!) in the “war on terror,” including experiments on interrogation, drugs, conditions of confinement, behavioral experiments, and outright torture. They cannot let these people go, as some of them are more political, and might talk (like Shaker Aamer), or were leaders inside, etc. Very few of them are or were actual terrorists, and the treatment given these prisoners makes it near impossible to give them a fair trial.

    The new Periodic Review Board is the Bush-era CSRB/CSRT all over again. The genuflections to habeas review and the Convention Against Torture would evoke Homeric laughter, if it wasn’t so outrageous and obscene.

    This is how you hide a major war crime in full view of the world. We are all accomplices now.

    • mzchief says:

      Yes that is obscene.

      OT– I’d like to take the opportunity to welcome William E. Lewis, Jr. and Rico Petrocelli of Florida who are new here at The Lake. It is my hope that we have spirited fact-based discussions. One thing of particular interest to me is voter caging and I’d be interested in hearing their recommendations for rolling that back in Florida.

  9. Clothodi says:

    Great plan EW, but don’t forget extraordinary rendition for any them foreign Banksters that might be involved along with unmanned drones and assassination lists for the ones we can’t catch. Last but not least we can’t forget to seize all them terrorist assets. I see this working out really well.

  10. hate2haggle says:

    WOW, ew, that’s a grand idea. I hope chants and signs sprout up at future demonstrations. Boy, this could be ten times greater than watching Richard Nixon flounder with missing White House tapes. EW, you’re quite the thinker. Thanks.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Obama is the antithesis of constructive change. His idea of reform is to put the CheneyBush excesses on a sounder legal footing. Instead of correcting those excesses, of ferreting out the rotten apples at senior levels, he’s putting rotten apples in all the barrels in the storehouse. That way, no one will be able to tell the difference between those excesses and the rule of law. His policies disgrace his academic pedigree and the social reforms that allowed his ambition to be president to become a reality.

    Secret laws; unwritten laws modified in secret; indefinite detentions without trial, without any semblance of justice or due process; blatant lies to the world about what such actions protect; total disregard for the financial and societal costs. That’s what Mr. Obama advocates and acts to make permanent features of the American legal and social landscape. He does that while building up our military and our outsourced, unregulated and exorbitantly expensive military; while federalizing local law enforcement, distributing to it an array of “non-lethal” toys that can be used against the hoi poloi; while continuing wholesale domestic spying and establishing “fusion” centers.

    Mr. Bush claimed to be bringing democracy and freeeeedom to the Middle East; he was really generating highly profitable chaos. Mr. Obama is enabling the same here.

    But it’s such an expensive task. The wealthy can’t be expected to help pay for the chaos that makes them rich. So Mr. Obama will have to “compromise” with his sworn opponents and cut already minimal social, health and educational programs to pay for it. After all, sharing the pain is such a communal, spiritually rewarding thingy to do.

  12. wavpeac says:

    If it weren’t so wrong in the first place…it would be so right in this case!

    Yah…it sure puts that “they are holding us hostage” (in reference to wall street and TBTF banks)statement by Obama in the first weeks of his Presidency…in a whole new light doesn’t it?

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Swift would appreciate your wit, as would Dickens. Your suggestion that banksters be used as guinea pigs, to try out Mr. Obama’s new regime, seems to run afoul of the primary law in ObamaLand: banksters aren’t subject to any law, not even the lawlessness Mr. Obama and his esteemed Attorney General have just advocated.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Dr. Jonathan Swift wrote more than Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s A Modest Proposal, from which EW’s title is drawn, is an extended essay, “widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language.”

    Among its recommendations for dealing with the poor, Swift surprises his genteel readers by suggesting that the multitudinous Irish poor could at least earn their daily bread by selling their children to rich ladies and gentlemen for food. He provides a list of recipes and cooking methods.

    As an early 18th century Anglo-Irishman and dean in the Church of Ireland, Swift wasn’t making ghastly fun of Irish Roman Catholic fecundity. He was wagging a pre-Dickensian finger at the wealthy on both sides of the Irish Sea who cared so little for their brethren. It didn’t improve matters. A 116 years later, the Irish potato famine decimated the Irish poor, causing about 1.5 million deaths and about another 1.5 million to emigrate. All the while, Ireland continued to export great quantities of eggs, meat and grain, but not potatoes. As Bill Bryson observed in At Home (p. 85), “It was the greatest loss of life anywhere in Europe since the Black Death.”

    Swift’s A Modest Proposal is a bitingly apt perspective for 21st century America and its leadership, be it over abandoning the rule of law or our sense of community and a shared future, or adopting the Koch brothers wish list as national economic policy.

    • MadDog says:

      …116 years later, the Irish potato famine decimated the Irish poor, causing about 1.5 million deaths and about another 1.5 million to emigrate…

      My 24 year old great, great grandfather left County Galway and boarded the packet ship Jamestown to escape the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849).

      He arrived in New York on the 15th of February, 1849. How and why he then moved to Minnesota is still a mystery, but at the age of 30, he was married in Burnsville, Minnesota. We be still here on the tundra. Hundreds of us. *g*

      • pdaly says:

        MadDog thanks for that website of passenger list transcriptions. It is a relief to see typed font. I’ve been squinting at nearly indecipherable handwritten passenger lists this past weekend looking for relatives from “Prussia” (although family history states they were from Alsace and Lorraine– in the 1830s or 40s before the German Empire).

        BTW, your relative’s arrival date 15th of February, 1849 was a Thursday. (Information thanks to the free Perpetual Calendar).
        Could be helpful for EW timelines in the near and distant past, as well.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The other lovely metaphor implied in EW’s title is wealthy England (the Kochs and their pet governors and Congresscritters) lording it over miserably poor Irish (America’s poor and middle class). A weak and miserably poor Ireland was no threat to English colonial masters, and the latter’s imposition of heavy taxes on the Irish and extraction of their resources at low cost were highly profitable. In fact, their actions and priorities were very much like the Kochs today.

    • Knut says:

      Swift was going after the Political Arithmeticians (the economists of his day). I always read his riff on babies making a good stew in my history of economic thought class.

  15. orionATL says:

    [email protected]

    well, now that you mention it,

    there are the dry tortugas, which really are american territory (as opposed to gitmo).

    as for the need to keep bringing in replacements,

    it would, i am sure, be a most sad duty for our dept of homeland security,

    but i am confident they will manage to act once again,

    as the dept has so often done in the past,

    to protect our national security.

    the more banksters (and home mortgage servicing officials) who are placed in “tellers’ cages” on, say, the dry tortugas,

    the safer the rest of us will be.

    to be truely safe, however, it will be necessary to clean out the sh*t at the bottom of the stables.

    i refer, of course, to the studs and mares of k street.

    but one thing at a time.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Oh, I think Marcy and Swift would be among the first to suggest that humor is much a matter of perspective, whether Lilliputian or Brobdingnagian.

  16. orionATL says:

    [email protected]

    adak, alaska in one’s underwear?

    dude, that’s cold.

    wonder who owns that huge house with the blue roof (metal, it looks like)? in fact, all the roofs in adak look like they’re metal. good choice. fibreglass shingles up there might last a winter or two and leak the whole damned time.

    • MadDog says:

      …adak, alaska in one’s underwear?

      I thought we agreed on no underwear. For the MOTUs own safety of course.

    • MadDog says:

      …p.s. wonder who owns that huge house with the blue roof (metal, it looks like)?

      Based on the buses parked out on the road in front of it, I’m guessing it might be the local school, but perhaps given Adak’s military background, it might be something military-related.

  17. PeasantParty says:

    I can’t wait for the foreign banks to start calling for the imprisonment of US Bankstas for having so much to do with their own banking crisis problems. We may end up having the entire GLOBAL Economy after the-Bernank and his Investment Buds.

  18. orionATL says:

    that seems cruel,

    but o.k., i’ll just pretend i’m working for the doj.

    but i must confess,

    i always get MOTUs

    mixed up with MOFOs.

    can’t quite figure out why that is.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I need hardly point out on EW’s blog that another purpose of Swift’s satire was not just to embarrass the wealthy English, to persuade them that charity and practical assistance were healthier responses to the poor than derision, but to enrage the poor themselves, to get them to become less docile in submitting to economic, social and military oppression, and to take action as urgent as need be to address their grievances.

  20. orionATL says:

    [email protected]

    to reprise part of a comment by “nmvoiceofreason” from bmaz’s post yesterday,

    “you say you want a revolution…” *

    *some guys, somewhere,

    a long time ago.

  21. scribe says:

    Seems like this new indefinite detention scheme – the one without any reason for detention other than possibly being threatening to the security of the USA (whatever that means) could prove itself an exceptionally effective sales tool in shaking loose campaign contributions from banksters and their fellow rich folk.

    “Either you’re with us or ….”

    Just sayin’.

    • warp9 says:

      Seems like this new indefinite detention scheme – the one without any reason for detention other than possibly being threatening to the security of the USA (whatever that means) could prove itself an exceptionally effective sales tool in shaking loose campaign contributions from banksters and their fellow rich folk.

      Why beg when you can take?

      They wouldn’t have any need for money while they are in Gitmo anyway.

  22. Scarecrow says:

    Sorry, but I believe in equal protection, rather than arbitrary, selective enforcement of the law. So I can’t support this proposal unless in includes Phil Graham, Alan Greenspan, Tim Geithner, the Keating Five and the entire TEA-GOP party, including governors, along with every lobbyist and corporate exec who contributed more that $5 to their elections. Also, every hedge fund manager that made over a billion. Most of the Pentagon brass involved in weapons and military procurement are likely suspects, but I don’t want to be extreme.

  23. lsls says:

    Barry gets to decide: Hmmm…this one is a DFH, ummmm….this one whines too much…uhhh…this one needs to buck up, put them on the list to detain…Okay, I’ve got to go campaign, I can’t deal with this stuff, I’m too busy with other more important things. Gimme those really tight pointy uncomfortable shoes..Michele says they look good with the suit..where are we going? Oh, Ohio again…

  24. orionATL says:

    [email protected]

    done! *

    anybody else you’d like to add to the list?

    it’s set u.s. policy:

    the “terrorist” list is open-ended,

    a “terrorist” is whoever we say is,

    the detention, ’til death.

    we vacuum’em up and let god sort them out.

    american justice – ya gotta love it.

    *let’s put econ prof gramm down twice.

  25. felicity says:

    Go for it. As I recall, according to a Bush lawyer, who cited Hamilton as his source, the president can do anything the Constitution does not expressly forbid.

  26. VJBinCT says:

    Send them all to the Isles of Langerhans. Very comfortable. Typically at body temperature all year round.

  27. Margaret says:

    What Martha Stewart did was nothing, nothing compared to what the banksters have done yet she went to federal prison while the banksters are too big rich to fail be prosecuted…

    • mzchief says:

      Yes. Personally I thought that she became the fall guy for someone else and it wasn’t voluntary. She spent her 5 month sentence time in Alderson, West Virginia. I credit her with using the experience in a constructive manner. She was different but in a better way when she returned to her show. I happened to see one broadcast where she brought on some of the workers that do the work that allows her to do what she does. She honored them on the show in way I perceived to be quite sincere. I wasn’t surprised to find out that she was once a stockbroker in her very early years. The women does have business smarts.

      • onitgoes says:

        I agree with you about Martha Stewart after she served her time in a low security lock-up. Stewart perhaps “deserved” to serve time, but I also agree that what Stewart did was nothing in comparison to the giant scheming & criminal activity by the TBTF Banks, Wall St, etc. NOTHING in comparision.

        Martha Stewart was a convenient scapegoat/fallgal back in the day. Methinks the big “boys” didn’t like her (maybe some sexism involved but who knows).

        Similar to how Bernie Madoff – who deserves whatever punishment comes his way – *appears* to be one of the very very few busted following the crash. We all know that the crimes involved in the crash of our economy go way beyond Madoff, and despite the personal pain felt by Madoff’s victims, I feel like Madoff is chump-change in the scheme of things.

        Similar to how Michael Milken was one of the very few to take the rap on the junkbonds situation, and now Milken is lauded as a “philanthropist.”

  28. qweryous says:

    Mortgage Settlement Term Sheet: Bailout as Reward for Institutionalized Fraud at Naked Capitalism.

    American Banker posted the 27 page term sheet presented by the 50 state attorneys general and Federal banking regulators to banks with major servicing operations.

    Whether they recognize it or not, this deal is a suicide pact for the attorneys general in states that are suffering serious economic damage as a result of the foreclosure crisis. Tom Miller, the Iowa attorney who is serving as lead negotiator for this travesty, is in a state whose unemployment was a mere 6.2% last December. In addition he is reportedly jockeying to become the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So the AGs who are in the firing line and need a tough deal have a leader whose interests are not aligned with theirs.

    A link to the 27 page term sheet for this deal is at the Naked Capitalism post.

  29. TarheelDem says:

    It seems only right for terrorists who are likely to strike America against. They’ve already collected a trillion dollars of their weapons of monetary destruction.