For 49 years the National defence Authorization Act was a simple law signed off on by the President to give the Department of defence the money it needed to get through another 12 months of spending.This year, the Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich) and senior member John McCain (R.-Ariz.) crafted provisions for the bill that many said would erode the 5th Amendment.
Although Obama initially promised to veto any bill containing the Armed Services amendments, he ultimately signed the full package into law on New Year’s Eve while vacationing with his family in Hawaii.
So why exactly are people freaking out about this bill?
While it is easy to believe that because most of us aren’t terrorists or breaking any laws, that we have no reason to be concerned — we took a close look at the language of the 2012 NDAA amendments to see where exactly the facts lie.
- Section 1021 of the NDAA allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain, without due process, any person engaged in “hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners … without trial until the end of hostilities.”
- Section 1022 expressly states that the military will imprison anyone who is a member of al-Qaeda or “an associated force” that acts like al-Qaeda; and anyone who planned or carried out an attack, or attempted attack, against the U.S.
- Section 1022 continues that detaining American citizens is not required. “UNITED STATES CITIZENS — The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.”
The bottom line is the government can imprison anyone suspected of or even associated with terrorism. This power is open to wide interpretation and could certainly be abused.
After signing the NDAA, Obama released a statement saying “the [NDAA] does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognised as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorise the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”
This appears to be untrue. The September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) allows “[T]he President … to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organisations, or persons he determines planned, authorised, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organisations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organisations or persons.”
The connection between detaining those responsible for 9/11, and imprisoning any “associated force” that acts like the terrorist group, seems unclear.
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