NDAA critics say that it enables ordinary
US citizens to be treated like 'enemy combatants' in Guanta'namo.
Photograph: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images
Yes, the worst things you may have heard about the National Defense Authorization Act
, which has formally ended 254 years of democracy in the United States
of America, and driven a stake through the heart of the bill of rights,
are all really true. The act passed with large margins in both the
House and the Senate on the last day of last year -- even as tens of
thousands of Americans were frantically begging their representatives to
secure Americans' habeas corpus rights in the final version.
does indeed -- contrary to the many flatout-false form letters I have
seen that both senators and representatives sent to their constituents,
misleading them about the fact that the NDAA destroys their due process
rights. Under the act, anyone can be described as a 'belligerent." As the New American website puts it,
clauses (Section 1022, for example) unlawfully give the president the
absolute and unquestionable authority to deploy the armed forces of the
United States to apprehend and to indefinitely detain those suspected of
threatening the security of the 'homeland.' In the language of this
legislation, these people are called 'covered persons.'
universe of potential 'covered persons' includes every citizen of the
United States of America. Any American could one day find himself or
herself branded a 'belligerent' and thus subject to the complete
confiscation of his or her constitutional civil liberties and nearly
never-ending incarceration in a military prison."
with a new bill now being introduced to make it a crime to protest in a
way that disrupts any government process -- or to get close to anyone
with secret service protection -- the push to legally lock down the
United Police States is in full force.
Overstated? Let's be clear:
the NDAA grants the president the power to kidnap any American anywhere
in the United States and hold him or her in prison forever
without trial. The president's own signing statement, incredibly,
confirmed that he had that power. As I have been warning since 2006:
there is not a country on the planet that you can name that has ever set
in place a system of torture,
and of detention without trial, for an "other", supposedly external
threat that did not end up using it pretty quickly on its own citizens.
And Guanta'namo has indeed come home: Guanta'namo is in our front
yards now and our workplaces; it did not even take much more than half a
decade. On 1 March, the NDAA will go into effect -- if a judicial hearing scheduled for this week does not block it -- and no one in America, no US citizen, will be safe from being detained indefinitely -- in effect, "disappeared."
As former Reagan official, now Ron Paul supporter, Bruce Fein, points out,
on 1 March, we won't just lose the bill of rights; we will lose due
process altogether. We will be back at the place where we were, in terms
of legal tradition, before the signing of the Magna Carta -- when kings
could throw people in prison at will, to rot there forever. If we had
cared more about what was being done to brown people with Muslim names
on a Cuban coastline, and raised our voices louder against their having
been held without charge for years, or against their being tried in
kangaroo courts called military tribunals, we might be safer now
from a new law mandating for us also the threat of abduction and fear of perpetual incarceration.
didn't care, or we didn't care enough -- and here we are. We acclimated,
we got distracted, the Oscars were coming up ... but the fake
"battlefield" was brought home to us, now real enough. Though it is not
"we" versus Muslims in this conflict; it is our very own government
versus "us." As one of my Facebook community members remarked bitterly, of our House representatives, our Senate leaders and our president, "They hate our freedoms."
The NDAA is, in the words of Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee,
"the worst threat to civil liberties since COINTELPRO. It gives the
government the power to presume guilt rather than innocence, and
indefinitely imprison anyone accused of a 'belligerent act' or
terror-related offense without trial." He points out that it gives
future presidents the power to arrest their political critics. That may
even be understating things: it is actually, in my view, the worst
threat to civil liberty in the US since habeas corpus was last
suspended, during the American civil war.
On a conference call for media last Friday,
hosted by the cross-partisan BORDC (which now includes the 40,000
members of the American Freedom Campaign, which we had co-founded as a
response to the warning in 2007 that America was facing a "fascist shift")
and the right-leaning Tenth Amendment Foundation, we were all speaking
the same language of fear for our freedom, even though our perspectives
spanned the political spectrum. As the Tenth Amendment Foundation put
it, we are a family with diverse views -- and families know when it is
time to put aside their differences. If there were ever a time to do so,
it is now.
This grassroots effort is pushing hard in many places.
Protests that included libertarians, progressives, Tea Party members and
Occupy participants have been held nationwide in recent weeks. State legislators in Virginia, Tennessee, and Washington
also introduced bills to prevent state agencies from aiding in any
detention operations that might be authorized by the NDAA. In other
words, they are educating sheriffs and police to refuse to comply with
the NDAA's orders. This presents an Orwellian or 1776-type scenario,
depending upon your point of view, in which the federal government, or
even the president, might issue orders to detain US citizens -- which
local sheriffs and police would be legally bound to resist.
What will happen next? I wrote recently that the US
is experiencing something like a civil war, with only one side at this
point -- the corporatist side -- aggressing. This grassroots, local-leader
movement represents a defensive strategy in what is being now tacitly
recognized as unprovoked aggression against an entire nation, and an
entire people. (Here I should say, mindful of the warning issued to me
by NYPD, which arrested me, to avoid saying anything that could be
construed as "incitement to riot" and that I believe in nonviolent
The local resistance to the police state goes
further: midwestern cities, such as Chicago and Minneapolis, are
considering "torture-free city" resolutions that would prohibit the
torture which civil libertarians see as likely under a military
detention regime expanded by the NDAA. (Bradley Manning's initial
treatment in solitary confinement, for instance, met some Red Cross
definitions of torture.)