Hey! It’s foul times in politics, eh? And of course, because I’m American (though non-resident), when I say politics, I mean the dog pile comprised of egomaniacal American dipshits who somehow forget that they are supposed to be masquerading as representatives of the American people. I’m loyal like that.
It’s one helluva stinky dog pile these days.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 was signed by President Obama a few days ago. Nothing too surprising in that it’s a bill designed to provide for the military and the national security interests– think Pentagon, troops, military infrastructure. Kind of a can’t fail bill and over the last 50 years or so, it never has. This year, however, Congress opted to include some frighteningly expansive provisions which allow the U.S. military to conduct anti-terrorism operations on U.S. soil and the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist acts without trial. So, uh, just go ahead and scrap the Bill of Rights, what’s say? Old stuff is so not cool. Throw Article III of the Constitution in as well. Even older stuff smells.
Despite statements from the NSA that controversial detention provisions of the bill would undermine U.S. Constitutional rights, a great Op-ed in the New York Times by two four star generals calling for a veto or repeal, and a veto threat in December, Obama chose (he said, ‘reluctantly’) to accept the bill as-is. He issued a signing statement assuring all of us that HIS administration does not intend to use the authority to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens. Great! Does he realize he’s up for re-election in 11 months? That presidents cycle in and out of executive power? Sure he does.
The 565-page law is vast and in vast spaces we find vague guideposts. It’s in Title X, Subtitle D, “Counterterrorism” that the NDAA gets spooky. Whoowhee, it’s a mess. I sort of like dismantling the puzzle of statutes (nerd!) but this pulls together unsettled law and terms of our old enemy combatant/friend– the USA PATRIOT Act.
Quickly, it seems to institutionalize some authority that both the Bush and Obama administrations believe they already hold to deprive suspected terrorists– U.S. citizens– of their due process rights. The NDAA (section 1021) lets U.S. military forces detain anyone they believe to be part of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States… including anyone who has committed a belligerent act or supported such hostilities…” In the next section, the NDAA says that anyone who fits into section 1021 and is “a member or part of Al-Qaeda” who has “participated in planning or carrying out” an attack must be placed in military custody. Some folks think the provision at paragraph (b) is the breath of fresh air we wanted: “The requirement to detain … does not extend to U.S. citizens.”
Yeah, just because they don’t have to doesn’t mean they can’t. Or that they aren’t.
Also of interest are the provisions that prohibit any NDAA funds from being used to modify facilities intended to house Guantanamo detainees, even those cleared and awaiting repatriation. Congress likes keeping them conveniently off-shore. Absence isn’t making their hearts any fonder.
I know there are folks out there who believe that they’re safe from a codified deprivation of liberty– “I don’t do bad shit. Lock up the bad guys. I’m cool with that.” Shit, I know those folks; they’re family (though they don’t call, so whatever). What the short-sighted fail to appreciate is that this sort of law opens doors to recasting ‘bad shit.’ The hostilities imagined by this law are just that. Products of imagination. Sure, some people do bad things. But terror is an idea, employed to strike fear in the heart of its victim. Fear demands greater security but it doesn’t understand balance. Congress and the administration chose security over liberty. And we shouldn’t be okay with that. Mandatory and indefinite detention without proof of guilt won’t end terror. While the ink is fresh, we should be fighting this law. Because if we wait to fight, we might be the ones thought to be provoking hostilities. And then we don’t know where we’ll end up. And neither will our families, friends and lawyers.
You may want to consider calling your representative to demand a repeal of the detention provisions. The NDAA fails to uphold the constitutional values that we should hold dear. (Sad that it was passed on the anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights.) If you want to know more, here’s a pretty fair and even-handed evaluation of the law.
Not surprisingly, the bill passed with bipartisan support. It seems like the only thing Congress and the White House can manage these days is to make matters worse for its citizens– never mind the rest of the world, which is right to protest that this new law is in complete violation of international human rights law but is contenting itself to point and shake its head.
If you’re a masochist, here’s some salt for your wound: not only have we effectively ratified ourselves as a police state (understanding that we’ve been performing as such for a while), the effort led by Senator Udall to include a provision to forbid U.S. citizens from consideration under the law was rejected 38-60. Oh, and Obama could have used his veto power, but he didn’t. Happy 2012!