Forget about Occupy Wall Street for a moment. Forget Protect IP and SOPA for a moment as well. There is, lurking in the halls of Congress at this very moment an all-too-serious threat to our rights as Americans. Watch the first minute or so of the above video, and pay special attention to Senator Rand Paul’s question to Sen. McCain and his response around 25 seconds in; is this seriously what we need in America? This excerpt is from the debate on S. 1867, the annual Defense spending bill, and hidden away deep in the bill are three sections that should give anyone who values our civil liberties, particularly those of due process and the right to a speedy trial and habeas corpus itself, pause. I don’t intend to sound alarmist, but the alarm must be sounded about these parts of this legislation.
There is indeed a lot of very passionate rhetoric about this bill flying around the internet this week; as usual, I will attempt to be as calm as usual in the analysis, but if these provisions become law, life in America as we know it may well change for the worse. When I heard about Sections 1031-1035 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, I thought that its passage by even the Senate would be almost unthinkable. Sadly, and scarily, that is not the case.
A World of War
The core issue with this bill is that it essentially extends the defined battlefield in the War on Terror to include the United States. Yes, if this passes we are all effectively part of the war, and as such the military has the option to detain us just as it would an insurgent in Afghanistan or, until the recent pullout, Iraq, and send us to Guantanamo Bay. In fact, two retired Generals, Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar, said in a recent New York Times editorial that “due process would be a thing of the past.” Is this really what we need in our country? It’s not like we’re overrun by terrorist incidents like in 24; if we were, then the passage of something that implicitly targets American citizens, living in the United States of America, might be somewhat useful. Make no mistake, it would be no less atrocious than it is now, but since our reality is not that of 24, I really have to wonder what sort of ulterior motive our Congress has in inserting these provisions.
What’s worse is the sneaky way the legislators went about doing this part of the NDAA. In fact, I held this post back for a few days while I tried to figure out whether American Citizens were included or not. See, the bill implies that we are in one section, and in another says that we are exempt. Which is it? Obviously we cannot have it both ways; either we’re able to be detained indefinitely or we’re not. You can’t just be “oh, I’m kinda detained forever…” You either are or you’re not. After much reading on the matter in my study breaks this finals period, I agree with the interpretation of Representative Justin Amash (R- Michigan), among others: Section 1032 of the NDAA does not actually exempt us as American citizens from the possibility of indefinite detention by the military; it merely gives the President the option rather than the requirement to do so.
To be honest, for the sake of clarity in knowing what we’re dealing with, I would’ve rather that the section was explicit; that way, we could have had more time to mobilize against this bill, to stop it in its tracks as it deserved to be. Indefinite Detention at the whims of a President is not something I would’ve ever thought to read about in the United States. Argentina under the military junta during the 1970s-early 1980s, yes, but here?
Given that President Obama has now signaled that he will not veto the bill, a fact that is greatly disappointing to me who once supported hin (and is still flooded with emails about his 2012 campaign), we have to hope the third branch of our government still has its head on straight. In fact, I would expect that the first lawsuit that results from these provisions will go to the Supreme Court; I am not very religious, but when that happens, I’d pray that at least 5 of the Justices see the light and rule it unconstitutional, because that is what it is at the very basic definition of the term. In fact, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld was a Supreme Court case in 2004 that dealt with this precise issue, or at least one very close to it; are we, in fact, entitled to representation and due process while under military detention? The Court ruled that this is, in fact, the case; unfortunately, its ruling essentially gave Senator Carl Levin (D- Michigan) the legal basis for this legislation. It will be interesting to watch it play out to be sure, but given that this Supreme Court gave us Corporate Personhood in the Citizens United ruling, we shouldn’t have our hope too high.
Congressman (and perennial Presidential candidate) Ron Paul (R- Texas) has called this bill “arrogant and bold and dangerous”. I may not agree with him on many issues, but this is one that I think any rational American can see is, sadly, quite a reasonable assessment of the bill.
The Is This How Liberty Dies? by The New Age of Politics, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.