Papers Please!

When Congress actually agrees on something is when you should really start paying attention. The Senate recently passed the National Defense Amendment Act by a 93-7 margin and while the President has promised to veto the bill (more on this later), the ramifications of this bill are game-changing.

The NDAA has been passed every year for the past 48 years with no problem. Basically it is the bill that funds the United States Department of Defense. This year’s bill features a provision that has been folded into it that, among other things, allows for the indefinite detention of United States citizens.

That is indefinite detention, meaning that without a trial or even a legitimate charge, US citizens can be subjected to military tribunal and locked up indefinitely. Meaning that for the first time the US government would have the power to lock it’s own citizens, not just foreign combatants, away in Guantanamo Bay, Harold and Kumar style.

Before passing this monstrosity, our wise and just Senate allowed for just an hour of debate time to discuss the pros and cons of such a measure. An hour. They spent an hour debating whether the US government should wipe it’s behind with our 4th and 6th Amendment rights. Our constitution lost the debate, by a 93-7 margin.

But wait, earlier I mentioned that the White House has said that it will veto the bill. President Obama to the rescue right? Well, not quite, the White House is saying that it will veto the bill:

This unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial restriction of the President’s authority to defend the Nation from terrorist threats would tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals. Moreover, applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the United States… would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.”

This would be good news if it werent for the fact that the Congress has more than enough votes to overturn a Presidential veto on this bill. It cant be stressed how slippery of a slope we precariously find ourselves on right now. Unfortunately we have been moving down this path – a path that undoubtedly ends in less freedoms for the average person and more government control over our daily lives – unimpeded for some time now.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) has been called the founding document of the apparently open-ended “war or terror”. Passed one week after 9/11, it allowed for the President to search for and prosecute anyone suspected of being connected to the 9/11 attacks. This new bill expands this power to include jurisdiction over all “covered persons”.

From the bill:

“The authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons. . . pending disposition under the law of war.”

As Sen. Rand Paul states in the above video, the bill makes no distinction between those found to have been actually supporting terrorists and those simply accused of “supporting terrorism”, a phrase that is broad itself.

“I want to repeat that. We are talking about people who are merely suspected of a crime. And we are talking about American citizens,” Paul said. “If these provisions pass, we could see American citizens being sent to Guantanamo Bay. It puts every American at risk. The only thing protecting innocent Americans from the heavy hand of ‘a too powerful state’ is the Constitution. Detaining citizens without a court trial is not American. In fact, this alarming arbitrary power is reminiscent of Egypt’s permanent emergency law authorizing permanent detention—a law that provoked citizens to tear their country apart last spring and risk their lives to overcome tyranny.”


2 Responses to “Papers Please!”

  1. Carmelia Says:

    I’m no expert but constitutionally speaking individuals can always challenge their detention with a habeas petition. The problem is if someone up and disappears then they can’t have a buddy file one for them. Anyhow habeas petitions have been laying the groundwork to challenge this type of detention since 1999.

    The way this continues to play out in the courts is Congress makes crazy rules, the president may or may not agree, and the Supreme Court smacks it down. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld prevents Congress from running wild and detaining people indefinitely. Even as they keep trying to find ways around it (like this law and the Military Commissions Act of 2009) SCOTUS seems apt to protect civil liberties even if by a narrow margin. I’d recommend you keep an eye on the DC District Courts though, any challenges are going to start there.

    • youngwonder Says:

      Thanks for e read :). I just finished reading out the Boumediene v Bush decision and it seems like your right, tue SCOTUS does seem apt to rule against this sort of law. However Scalia’s dissent scares the mess out of me, and if Justice Kennedy is the only thing standing between us and a police state, we are closer to a poloce state than i thought.

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