During this past holiday season, which for most is the busiest time of year, you may not have been keeping abreast of the news. It appears that this is exactly what Congress and President Obama were counting on as they passed and signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act.
This bill greatly expands power in the Executive branch of government by allowing authorization of the indefinite detention of American citizens in military custody, for aiding or supporting terrorist activity, without charging them or putting them on trial until the end of the war on terror.
This provision in the NDAA tramples all over the Bill of Rights, specifically the rights identified in the Fourth (unreasonable arrest without probably cause), Fifth (guarantees due process), and Sixth (guarantees rights: to speedy trial, to know charges, to legal counsel, and to face accuser) Amendments. All of this is occurring under the guise of fighting the war on terror.
While President Obama issued a signing statement saying that he disagrees with the provision in the bill that expands the power of the Executive branch, he chose to sign the bill despite the vigorous objections of civil liberties advocates.
We should not take this provision lightly. Can you imagine a return to the McCarthy era or worse when the definition of “terror” and “terrorist activity” could be defined to mean almost anything? One has only to look at some of the inflammatory language coming from the Republican presidential candidates in this highly-partisan political environment to speculate what could be classified as “terror” under a new Republican presidential administration—perhaps war protestors, the ACLU, a civil rights group that defends Muslim Americans from the bigotry and intolerance of their neighbors?
What about the LGBT community? Many of the Republican presidential candidates have already signed the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) pledge, which states that if he or she is elected, he or she will appoint a presidential commission to investigate the harassment of traditional marriage supporters (i.e., organizations who advocate for civil rights).
Not only do they want to roll back the civil rights the LGBT community has gained in the past few years, many of the Republican presidential candidates have pledged to investigate civil rights organizations. With the broad new powers authorized under this piece of legislation, it is not a stretch to imagine that some of these same organizations could be branded with or threatened with the “terror” label.
I signed a pledge of my own this morning with the ACLU, to fight what I believe is this illegal and unconstitutional provision in this piece of legislation. However, I have to admit that I paused for a second. What if one day, a few years from now, we are labeled anti-American and supportive of terror for trying to fight this provision? We cannot allow that to happen! I don’t know about you, but I am going to fight so that day will never dawn.