National Defense Authorization Act Passes House

LD Jackson     Dec152011      Political Realities

Earlier this month, I wrote about the National Defense Authorization Act that had just been passed by the Senate. It’s an annual occurrence in Washington, as our elected officials try to make sure the Department of Defense is funded. My concern at the time was with some of the language that was buried into the legislation. This language provided for the indefinite detention of anyone captured inside the United States and deemed to be a terrorist or supporter of such. The legislation passed by the Senate was sent to the House of Representatives to be reconciled and sent to President Obama for his signature. At the time, the President was threatening a veto, ostensibly because the legislation limited his power to gather evidence and intelligence against terrorism suspects. The reconciliation process must have been a success because the NDAA passed the House yesterday, on a vote of 283-136 (click on the link to find out how your representative voted) and it is headed to the White House, where Obama has promised he will sign it into law.

I have done what research I can, trying to determine just how much of a threat this bill poses to our liberties. Before we go further, here is the text of the offending section. As far as I can tell, the only difference between the Senate version and this, the final version is the section I have italicized.

SEC. 1021. Affirmation of authority of the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(a) In general.—Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered persons.—A covered person under this section is any person as follows:

(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.

(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

(c) Disposition under law of war.—The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:

(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111–84)).

(3)Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.

(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.

(d) Construction.—Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(e) Authorities.—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.

(f) Requirement for briefings of Congress.—The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be “covered persons” for purposes of subsection (b)(2).

Each of us can be our own judge about the validity of the claims against this legislation. I find myself more than a little troubled by Section 1021, even with the language inserted to make sure the law doesn’t apply to American citizens or legal residents of our country. It should  also be noted that the exclusion of American citizens was removed from the Senate’s version of the bill at the request of the White House. By itself, that makes me wonder why the President believes adhering to the Bill of Rights will limit his ability to fight the war on terror.

I am not one who normally jumps at the first cry of “boo”.  I am not one who normally gives conspiracy theories much credence. However, looking at the past actions of our government and how our liberties are being eroded, I can’t help but wonder why we need to suspend the Bill of Rights to fight terrorism. It troubles me that so many of our Representatives voted in favor of this legislation, including all three Representatives from Oklahoma.

You see, it all lies in how these provisions are interpreted. Here is how Spellchek feels about it.

The problem is in the interpretation. Supporters claim that the language doesn’t target American citizens. Correct. However, it doesn’t limit the President’s authority under existing law and there-in lies the quandary. You merely need to be suspected of terrorist activities as identified by the President by decree and you fall under the provisions of the law which includes possible detention without charge or trial until the end of hostilities. Got that? The end of hostilities. Guess what? The war on terror has no end.

As with the Patriot Act, all it takes is suspicion. The Obama administration already has a program in motion to enlist all sorts of agencies to watch for suspicious behavior. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI has unprecedented authority to search and seize. With the NDAA about to become the law of the land, the President now has the codified authority to suspend the Bill of Rights for persons arrested on American soil. If that isn’t unprecedented and uncalled for, I don’t know what is.

There is one last thing I want to mention. Do you remember how Barack Obama campaigned for President? Do you remember how he claimed he was going to close Guantanamo Bay? Do you remember how he railed against the policies of George W. Bush and how he was fighting the war on terror? He promised he was going to end all of that, but he has done nothing of the kind. If anything, he has continued the policies of the previous administration and with the provisions of the NDAA, I wonder if he isn’t doubling down on them. I wonder how that will sit with the ACLU?

About LD Jackson

Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

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By Published On: December 15th, 2011Comments Off on Why do we need to suspend the Bill of Rights to fight terrorism? Text of House Section 1021 re detaining citizens

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