It’s amazing what our Congress can legislate, then get passed as law without a single complaint from the media or from very few people. The latest example is The National Defense Authorization Act (S.1867), the biggest attack on the civil liberties of all American citizens since the Patriot Act. It gives the US military and the Federal Government unprecedented powers to detain US citizens indefinitely and without trial under the law of war. Most progressives will argue that the government will never exercise those powers, but if that’s the case, then why pass the law in the first place? Clearly, this is just an attempt by the progressives to placate the people so they can pass a nefarious law.
Let’s dissect the actual bill (which can be found here in its entirety). The first troubling part of the bill has to do with “Subtitle D – Detainee Matters” in which the following excerpt can be found:
Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.
The wording in this section is troubling for the fact that it is deliberately vague. Words like “appropriate” and “necessary” are subjective, and according to the paragraph, the President has been delegated all power to define these words as he sees fit. Because Congress affirms the authority, the President does not need Congressional approval. Furthermore, there are no specific events or circumstances listed within this section, the President could pretty much identify any event or situation as appropriate and necessary to use military force and detain anyone defined in Subsection b (which we are about to get to). In essence, this supersedes the Posse Comitatus Act and the full force of the United States military can be deployed and used within US territories to detain anyone defined in subsection b. So let’s take a look at Subsection b and see who can be detained.
A person who was a part of or substantially supported AL-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
… but read the next section, it’s perhaps even more distressing …
Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
The first section specifically states “associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States”. Because an associated force isn’t specifically defined, it could mean just about anything to include a single person or a group of people. Nowhere does it specifically say non-citizens. Furthermore, what exactly does “hostilities” mean? It too is not clearly defined, but if you look up the definition it says 1) a feeling or state of antagonism, and 2) an expression or act of war. If I dislike a certain government agency or the government itself, and lead a protest (such as the Occupy Wall street Movement), could I be considered hostile towards the United States? Because I want to change government, could I be associated with other like-minded entities such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban who also want to change our government?
But the next section is perhaps even more scary. It clearly states that people can be detained under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities. That means no lawyer, no phone calls, no jury, and no trail. The military can pick you up and detain you for as long as they like simply because your are hostile or belligerent towards the United States. They don’t have to arrest you, in fact they won’t because that would imply you have rights. With the National Defense Authorization Act, you have no rights and that’s the point. They have effectively circumvented the 6th Amendment of the Constitution which states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Think about the “war on drugs” or the “war on terrorism”. How long have those been going on? What if the government declares that these wars are now being fought on our home soil?
Here’s the part I find interesting. Why pass the National Defense Authorization Act in the first place? Is it because of the uprisings in Greece, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia? Is it expecting the same thing to happen here? Or is the government afraid of the citizens of the United States? Is it afraid of the Occupy Wall Street movement because it’s getting more widespread and belligerent (notice the word “belligerent” is specifically mentioned in the National Defense Authorization Act)? Unfortunately for the United State government, the Constitution protects the people from a Government crackdown and unlawful imprisonment. Unfortunately for us, they just circumvented it.
Local law enforcement would never contain a large scale riot or insurrections on the national scale. Think about the Los Angeles riots back in 1993. For seven days, there was complete anarchy in the streets. The whole city shutdown. If a large scale national riot occurred, the government would have to deploy the National Guard, but even they would be overwhelmed. The only option remaining would be the full use of the military. Doing so would violate some aspects of the Posse Comitatus Act. As it stands now, the Army is allowed to maintain law and order on US soil, but it must abide by the Constitution and the laws set forth by Congress and the other three branches of the military are excluded.
However, the National Defense Authorization Act specifically states the “Military” can hold detainees indefinitely. This clearly violates the 6th Amendment of Constitution, and since any branch of the armed forces could simply round people up and put them in segregation camps it violates the Posse Comitatus Act. Remember, we did this before on US soil back in World War II. We rounded up all the Japanese citizens and put them in camps until the war was over.
The powers granted to the president is not in question. Even he said he was hesitant to sign the Bill (yeah, right). It’s all there for you to read. The question that remains is, why does the government think it needs this power? Why does the government feel is needs to circumvent the 6th Amendment of the Constitution and modify Posse Comitatus?
It’s a sad day folks. Along with the Patriot Act, The National Defense Authorization Act offers another near knockout blown to our civil liberties.