By R.S. Bailey
The last week brought an onslaught of emails from both sides of the political spectrum. At first it was bizarre right wing gun-toting, religious fundamentalists screaming that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 would destroy the Bill of Rights. Top of the list on their agenda was the need to impeach Pres. Obama. Strangely, Pres. Obama had threatened to veto the bill. Hot on the heels of these emails were similar missives from diverse sources like Naturalnews.com and Ralph Nader. All making the same point, although not calling for the president’s impeachment. Nader pointed out the lack of vocal opposition from folks in the Tea Party and pointed to the opposition for the bill from likes of Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Presidential nominee Representative Ron Paul.
The National Defense Authorization Act is the annual bill that authorizes the budget for the U.S. Military. It’s a hefty chunk of money. For several years Republicans and Democrats alike have been trying to include the military imprisonment, without trial, of American citizens who act on behalf of Al Qaida, the perpetrators of the 9-11 attack, and affiliate organizations. What has been wanted is military imprisonment without trial or charges. A clear violation of habeas corpus, especially when all it takes is some field agent to say someone is a member of an “affiliated organization.”
Essentially, if I understand the clamor correctly, it would allow the right to detain someone, including U.S. citizens, without charges and hold them in a place like Guantanamo Bay as long as they choose or until the end of the current conflict, however that is decided. It came close to getting through this year. Different versions were passed in both houses of congress.
At issue was Section1031, which added last minute language to the unifying bill saying, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities, relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” Senator Feinstein added an amendment which calls for the question to be put to the Supreme Court. Detractors claim that if the Supreme Court refuses to decide, our rights are gone. The question still remains of what happens to the “affiliate” if they are shipped off to a military prison and denied legal representation. How do they fight their way out? Hope they have friends on the outside because they won’t get to make a phone call.
What is clear is that it will now be easier for the President to use the U.S. military in the streets of America. The act also puts the Commander of the National Guard onto the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Occupy Wall Street movement has expressed concern. Apparently there are those in the military who are not at all that happy about being included in this mission. Their role has changed and expanded over the last several years and they seem to want to get back to what they saw their prime functions were in the past, fighting wars to defend against foreign threat, and the development of new military technologies.
When you consider what’s at stake, that little paragraph added to Section 1031, now renamed Section 1021, could be just a bit vague. The bill was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of congress this past week.