On New Year’s Eve 2011, President Barrack Obama signed into law the 2012 edition of the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA annually provides for the defense budget and its allocations, and has been passed every year for the last 48 without much incident. This year’s edition wasn’t much different. Its passage through Congress received very little coverage from the mainstream media and its signing into law wasn’t able to kick Kardashian marriage trouble speculation off the front page of most news sites on New Year’s Day. However, the alternative media, civil rights watchdogs and many voices online have voiced concern over certain provisions it contains for fighting the War on Terror.
So what exactly is in this law? The full text can be read here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s1867es/pdf/BILLS-112s1867es.pdf, but most of these reservations stem from Section 1031. Section 1031 authorizes the military to detain suspected terrorists, enemy combatants, or members of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or of any associated groups, indefinitely. Under the NDAA, these suspects can be held “until the end of hostilities” without a trial, without a lawyer, and without being formally charged of any crime. Another extension of this law is to designate American soil as a battleground for the War on Terror, thus giving the President direct unquestionable powers to disappear anyone he wants at home or abroad. It also allows the military to police the streets of America, a practice that has been illegal in our country since 1878.
Some out there have nonetheless argued that this law is only to be applied to terrorists. They say that it is just to give the President power to go after and eliminate terrorists. They ask, if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then what do you have to worry about? They argue that the NDAA doesn’t even apply to American citizens.
Others out there would disagree. An ACLU statement on the bill said Obama signing the NDAA “will damage both his legacy and American’s reputation for upholding the rule of law.” The executive director of the Human Rights Watch said the President was “on the wrong side of history,” and “Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” (http://www.infowars.com/president-obamas-ndaa-signing-statement-i-have-the-power-to-detain-americans-but-i-wont/)
The Senate actually voted down an amendment to the bill that would have explicitly excluded American citizens from these provisions. (http://www.politico.com/blogs/joshgerstein/1211/Senate_votes_to_allow_indefinite_detention_of_Americans.html ) Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina and vocal proponent of the NDAA, said in debating this bill on the floor of Congress, “And to those American citizens thinking about helping Al-Qaeda, please know what will come your way: death, detention and prosecution.” He went on to say that when they ask for a lawyer, “you say, shut up.” (http://newschicago.net/sen-lindsey-graham-on-the-ndaa-indefinite-detention-of-american-citizens/1535/)
Now, I know there are people in the world that want to hurt us, but I don’t think it’s worth flushing the entire Bill of Rights to catch them. It doesn’t make me feel any better just because it’s only in cases of “terrorism.” The War on Terror will never end because terrorism will never end. The first definition from Dictionary.com for terrorism is, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.” Terrorism is as old as at least civilization and maybe mankind. Right now, the terrorists are Islamic extremists, but what about after they are defeated and triumphantly vanquished? Will these practices be abandoned, or will they be applied to other groups that use violence and intimidation to try to change the world?
We cannot continue to stand on a higher moral high ground over the Chinas and Irans of the world when our government maintains the right at all times to eliminate its citizens. The actions described by Senator Graham against an American citizen would infringe on a laundry list of Constitutionally protected rights including protection from unreasonable search and seizure (4th Amendment), the right to due process (5th), the right to a public trial by jury and the right to counsel (6th and 7th), the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment (8th), and protection of all other right not named by the Constitution, like your right to not disappear, (9th). The Founding Fathers thought the Bill of Rights was necessary to protect in great detail the rights of the people. They thought this because they knew a day would come when the government tried to take these rights back. This is why I am against them being ignored or trampled over even in the most extreme of circumstances.
The funny thing is the President was doing this kind of thing anyway before this law even passed. On September 30th, 2011, high ranking Al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a US Predator drone attack in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was born of Yemeni parents in the United States where his father was studying. His family returned to Yemen when he was seven years old, but he later returned to the US for his education and lived in the US from about 1991 to 2002. His fluent English allowed him to bring previously untranslated jihadist literature to Western World Muslims and he became a spiritual leader for violent extremism in the US and England. He allegedly had correspondence with both the Fort Hood shooter and the Underwear Bomber.
Obviously, al-Awlaki is an impossible person to defend, and I am not doing that. I don’t think that he didn’t deserve the death penalty. My only problem is the fact that a robot literally flew down out of the sky and killed an American citizen. Why kill just him like that when you can capture him, put him on trial in front of the whole world, end any conversation as to the reality of the threat of terrorism domestic and foreign, and find out if he was involved or had any contact with those who planned the 911 attacks? Why let Saddam rot in jail on televisions around the world awaiting trial and execution, but assassinate al-Awlaki quietly and covertly? Yemen is a tenuous ally, but an ally, still. If we knew his location well enough to send a drone after him, couldn’t he have been taken alive? There also the issue of his sixteen year old son, also born in America, who was killed in another drone attack two weeks later that claimed the lives of nine other suspected terrorists.
The truth is that the President was already doing these kinds of things before the law was passed. What the NDAA does is codify into law Congress’s approval of these practices. Even if this is all perfectly well intentioned and will end when global terrorism has been defeated, it still sets a dangerous precedent in law. Future Presidents that seek to abuse or increase their power will have a law to point to if they wish to get rid of political opponents or dissidents. As noted before, anyone that opposes the status quo and current government could hypothetically be classified as a terrorist. Presidential candidate, Congressmen and doctor Ron Paul summed up the NDAA as a “slip into tyranny.” (http://www.infowars.com/ron-paul-calls-national-defense-authorization-act-slip-into-tyranny/)
Luckily, there are a few people like Dr. Paul in Washington that are fighting against laws like the NDAA and other such intrusions into our personal liberties. The Texas Congressmen introduced legislation on Wednesday to repeal the sections in the NDAA that authorize the use of indefinite detention on American citizens.( http://www.infowars.com/ron-paul-introduces-legislation-to-strike-ndaas-unconstitutional-section-1021/) Passage of this would make ensure that Americans’ rights are protected from the government, the military is kept off the streets and the right of Americans to not be disappeared is preserved in the book of law.
Sadly, it’s too late to stop the passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. However, it’s not too late to contact our representatives and ask them to support Paul’s efforts to strike down this invasion of out liberties. It’s not too late to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Properties Act (PIPA) that would allow the government to intrude on the internet and introduce Chinese style censorship. It’s not too late to stop the proposed Enemy Expatriation Act, which would allow the government to strip citizenship from individuals without them even being charged or convicted of a crime. It’s not too late to wake up to the fact that our rights, rights not given to us by a government or a group of men or a piece of paper, but as the Declaration of Independence says, rights “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” are being taken away from us. It’s not too late to stand up to the creeping fascism in our government. And it’s definitely not too late to do all of the above by supporting Ron Paul for President.