The Dec 16, 2011 passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was a dark day in American history. In short it (a) expands the “battlefield” of the “war on terror” to the entire planet and (b) it permits the indefinite detention of a suspect (including US citizens) without any appeal rights. Although this Act has been authorized annually for the last 48 years, this is the first year that it has codified questionable implicit powers. The implicit nature of those powers has always been debatable but that’s not the issue. The issue is that the explicit powers granted basically gut the 4th , 7th and 8th Amendments for any covered person who is “determined to be a member of…a…force that acts in coordination with…al-Qaeda” (Sec 1032(2)(a)). There is a provision in Section 1031 exempting US citizens. But, as they say, the devil is in the details. Only citizens “arrested in the United States” are exempt. If you’re travelling, then all bets are off. Furthermore, that exemption does not apply to Section 1032. Section 1032 “requires” indefinite detainment only for non-US citizens. US citizens meeting the definition of “covered person” for the purposes of Section 1032 may be detained “without trial until the end of the hostilities” in the sole and arbitrary discretion of the Executive branch.
People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both. Benjamin Franklin
One problem is that the definition of “covered persons” is open to interpretation. What is a “force”? Perhaps it is an anti-war political movement? Perhaps speech in support of closing military bases and ceasing hostilities in foreign lands could be considered as acting in coordination with al-Qaeda? If you think that’s a stretch think again. History shows that those who believe in the mantra of “the ends justify the means” are willing to justify the most horrific crimes. One recent example of twisted interpretations: would you consider someone that minted silver coins and sold them as being a domestic terrorist? As absurd as that sounds the US government does, as exemplified in the case of Bernard von NotHaus earlier this year. An attorney for the government stated that “While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country.” If minting coins is terrorism then there is no limit to what the government can arbitrarily slap that label on. And if you don’t think you have anything to worry about because you’re not a terrorist then think again. What would happen if you were mistakenly arrested under the authority of this act and indefinitely detained? Even though you are innocent you have no right to a hearing to prove your innocence. A secret “determination” of your guilt is grounds enough to lock you up. Mistakes happen. This act only works in a world where government is clairvoyant and infallible. And here are a few things that can get you on the potential terrorist watch list: more than 7 days of food in your house, buying flashlights, paying in cash at hotels, texting privately in public, own precious metals or owning guns and ammo (all are public FBI/DOJ/DHS info).
This act starts the slippery slope toward a total police state. Don’t like something, simple, just call it “terrorism” and then lock up offenders without trial for the rest of their lives. And I do mean “the rest of their lives” because the “war on terror” will never end. Real terrorism can never end because it is simply a symptom of our species’ propensity toward violence. You might as well declare war on aggression, jealousy or selfish behavior.
But perhaps what is most frightening is how overwhelmingly it passed (93-7 Senate and 283-135 House). It’s nice to see that Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing: trampling our rights. As Benjamin Franklin said, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”