December 31, 2011 – New Year’s Eve. President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act. The $662 billion defense bill is more than just this year’s new defense budget. Politics aside, when the dust in Washington settled, the NDAA contained two shocking provisions that are further serving the erosion of our beliefs and values as a nation. According to an article written on Foxnews.com, the first provision would require any Al-Queda member, or affiliate of Al-Queda, suspected of fighting against the U.S. to be mandatorily detained by the military. At this point, the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of Defense may decide to try the individual in a military tribunal, or in federal court, if at all. Lastly, the President has executive authority to completely override this entire process, and may authorize the detainee to just sit in detention, indefinitely. Yes, this practice has been occurring for the better part of the last decade, and quite frankly probably a lot longer, but this bill now authorizes these crimes to be carried out on American soil. We may not have a need for Guantanamo Bay any more after all.
The second provision, section 1021 of the NDAA, allows for the indefinite detention of any United States citizens, with out charge virtually anywhere in the world, on or off the battlefield. Of course the provision does not expressly state this, however the provision is written so vaguely that it can be interpreted to this effect. The exact language of the bill has not been released as of yet, but most reports suggest that the bill allows for the detainment of, “any person engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners . . . with out trial, until the end of the hostilities.” (Robert Johnson from the Businessinsider.com)
There are several arguments against the power of sections 1021’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens. According to some sources, the original AUMF bill sign by G.W. Bush already allowed for the indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens. Does that make this any better? No. What the NDAA does though, it now extends this “courtesy” beyond the FBI, CIA, and other operative branches of the government to the Military now. Basically it just codifies this already horrid practice on a much larger scale. The President of the United States has been quoted to say that he had “serious reservations” about the bill – but that he signed it anyway.
Again – politics aside this bill has serious implications on the civil liberties of American citizens, and non-citizens around the world. This bill more or less gives the President of the United States executive power to deem anybody a threat and to detain them, indefinitely, with out charge or trial. While Obama has said that he does not plan to use this executive power, he still signed the bill into effect that would give future presidents this executive power.
The argument that we have not had another terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, therefore these law are working and therefore should be left alone is inherently flawed. Just because there has not been another attack does not mean we should blindly enact laws that strip away life and liberty with no due process. This is not a red state blue state issue – this is an issue about who we are as a people, as a country, as one country among the rest of the world. The bill passed by with an 87-13 vote in the Senate. These are the people that we vote for, drafting legislation that inherently destroys our liberties and freedoms. It’s time we start holding them accountable for their actions, and/or inactions.