By William Fisher
If President Obama now feels safer, knowing that there's a law that gives him the power to imprison someone until the end of the "war on terror," he must have little faith in such legal formalities as charges, indictments, trials, transparency and appeals.
That's because none of these niceties are required for you to be jailed under the NDAA -- the National Defense Authorization Act. President Obama signed the NDAA in mid-December, (after promising during his 2008 campaign that he would veto it).
According to the New York Times, you could be thrown into "indefinite military detention on suspicion that they (you) "substantially supported" Al Qaeda or its allies -- at least if they had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks."
This is not a new idea. The government has been imprisoning -- yes, let's use the actual word, not the euphemistic "detention," which sounds like a late homework assignment in grade school.
The United States has been detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely since 2001, basing its actions on Congress' Afghanistan "use of military force" law against
perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks and those who helped them. The NDAA created an actual law governing such imprisonments.
The judge, sitting in the powerful U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said the language of the statute was too broad, too subject to misinterpretation because it covered not only active terrorists but "people who were part of or substantially supported Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States or its allies."
But there were no specific definitions of words like "associated forces." The law also failed to specify whether it extended to American citizens and others arrested on United States soil. The Judge felt such lapses could lead to confusion and wrongful convictions. And the government also failed to state unequivocally that no First Amendment-protected activities would subject them to indefinite military detention.