Column - NDAA overreaches and jeopardizes America’s freedom
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 12, 2012 00:01
If coming back to Morgantown's weather and the grind of classes weren't enough for us college students, we also lost a significant amount of our freedom during the holiday break.
On New Year's Eve while most of us were living it up with friends, looking forward to a fresh new year with that hope it always brings, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law by the President, promising to bring us just that – hope and change.
Normally, NDAA is a yearly act by Congress that consists of the military expenditures – and other national security-related legislation – for the current fiscal year. But tucked within this year's innocuous $662 billion in funding for the "defense of the United States and its interests abroad," came two provisions that should shock and awe any American.
Section 1021 deals with the indefinite detention without a trial of terror suspects, and Section 1022 deals with the requirements for their military custody.
The "who" here (suspects) being defined in the provision as "a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
The vague classifier "a part of" opens the door to any and all connections, no matter how insignificant, to turn into a one-way ticket into a legal no-man's land.
The "what" of this legal gray area follows, "Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force."
Once again, the defining of terms becomes important here as "the end of hostilities" is nowhere in sight, as the closest definable end-goal of the War on Terror – ending terrorism – is an impossible task.
Terrorism will always exist, just to varying extents. To have that as your defining term for the war – and achieving that as your goal – creates a permanent state of war. So now the statement "until the end of hostilities" becomes a farce, as this is now apparently a forever war.
Those unlucky enough to get caught in this wide net of mere suspicion will never see a trial that clarifies the extent of their involvement with these mysterious "associated forces" (another vague term because of how they define "association"). This act of indefinite detention without a trial does several things.
Firstly, it takes away every American citizen's basic right to a free and fair trial, as even any trial in the future will be a military tribunal (hardly a non-biased jury of your peers) as all control of these suspects is automatically handed off to the United States Armed Forces – if you're a non-citizen, and, at the president's discretion, if you're a citizen.
Secondly, this denies the United States government and Armed Forces any chance of finding any real terror suspects, as all are caught up in this net and no one is sorted out to varying degrees of involvement.
Thirdly, this black hole of justice will create new terrorists who hate the United States government, as previously innocent suspects and their family members become radicalized at the hopelessness of their situation.
Being thrown in jail, without being charged for anything concrete, with little to no hope of ever seeing your family or freedom again – let alone enduring any of the torture or "enhanced interrogation" going on at these sites to "acquire information" – will create an environment ripe for revenge.
And lastly, this defeats the entire supposed purpose of why terrorists attack the United States – our freedoms. Maybe this is the new plan, since terrorists attack the United States for our freedoms, taking away our freedoms will stop terrorism!
How can the United States have any shred of credibility as a promoter of "freedom and democracy" if they follow in the footsteps of such bastions of liberty as Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea (according to Human Rights Watch) in indefinitely detaining their own citizens without access to a trial?
As scary and surreal as all of this is, what is even worse, President Obama only initially threatened to veto this legislation, not out of concern for our rights as American citizens (let alone the human rights of international citizens caught in this), but out of concern that his power would be constrained by this bill.
The statement released by the administration read, "Any bill that challenges or constrains the president's critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the nation would prompt the president's senior advisers to recommend a veto."
NDAA is as real as day, and it is our duty as American citizens to only support presidential candidates willing to consign this tyrannical legislation to the trash heap of history.