In case you hadn’t heard about it this year the NDAA or National Defense Authorization Act was passed earlier this year. Several people and agencies to include the ACLU called it the biggest threat to our civil liberties and continued freedom of expression in the United States today. Let me recap some of the highlights in the bill.
The National Defense Authorization Act greatly expanded the power and scope of the federal government to fight the War on Terror, including the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without trial. Under the new law the US military has the power to carry out domestic anti-terrorism operations on US soil. It also authorizes the military to detain indefinitely US citizens under the anti-terrorism bill, and was written vaguely. There are several other issues including the use of optional military detention for citizens and some other nasty little things.
When the President signed it into law he said he signed the bill while having serious reservations with certain provisions regulating the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Well, apparently he has changed his mind.
A U.S. District Judge, Katherine Forrest, set a permanent injunction against section 1021 of the NDAA and declared it unconstitutional, finding that it violated the first, fifth, and fourteenth Amendments. Thats a lot of rights stomping for one provision. The lawsuit, brought by journalists of all people, alleged the law is vague and could be read to authorize the arrest and detention of people whose speech or associations are protected by the First Amendment.
In her decision the judge wrote, “Here, the stakes get no higher: indefinite military detention – potential detention during a war on terrorism that is not expected to end in the foreseeable future, if ever. The Constitution requires specificity – and that specificity is absent from Section 1021.
Hours later the government filed suit with the 2nd circuit court of appeals. I guess it was a different part of the law dealing with detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists the President was talking about having serious reservations with. It couldn’t have been section 1021, otherwise they would have let the constitution skewering provision stay dead. Apparently, the government thinks it ought to be able to detain anyone it feels like, for any reason it wants, as long as it calls that reason terror related.
She said the law “impermissibly impinges on guaranteed First Amendment rights and lacks sufficient definitional structure and protection to meet the requirements of due process.”
“This court rejects the government’s suggestion that American citizens can be placed in military detention indefinitely, for acts they could not predict might subject them to detention, and have as their sole remedy a habeas petition adjudicated by a single decision-maker (a judge versus a jury), by a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard.”
I am so glad that someone in a position of power get it. America was not made to be ruled by the people they elected to office. Those office holders were put in place to keep securing the rights we set forth in the Constitution. Those people are answerable to us, usually by election, and we need to make sure they understand we will not have our rights infringed upon. There is no reason to detain a man for his expression of freedom, this isn’t communist China here, this is America. And when your government officials liken those who hold a pro-life agenda, agree with the second amendment, have served in the military, or have returned from a deployment or even supports a third-party candidate as fitting the profile of a domestic terrorist, you have great big whopping problems on your hands. What you are saying is we can make an exception for every rule and find a way to codify all people who don’t agree with us as a domestic terrorist. I’m sorry but the prisons don’t have room for upwards of 150-175 million people, probably closer to 200 million anyways.
Just let the bad portion of the bill die quietly, quashed by those who understand the rights of the people come first. It is the right thing to do in a country who prides herself on being a world leader in human rights.