Tag Archive | "ndaa"

NDAA bill may allow for indefinite detention of American citizens

On December 31, President Obama signed into law the controversial National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, and critics have pounced on the bill claiming that it potentially allows for the indefinite detainment of American citizens.

Let me go ahead and warn everyone that this is a very complicated subject, but I’m going to do my best to try and make it intelligible.

On its surface, the NDAA is an 1844-page spending bill that authorizes $662 billion for the defense budget. But contained within the legislation are provisions that deal with the detention of terrorism suspects, specifically the portion of the bill entitled, “Subtitle D –Counterterrorism.”

These provisions of the bill do not so much expand presidential authority for detaining suspects as it does reaffirm an authority both former President Bush and Obama claim already existed as granted by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

The AUMF was a one-page joint resolution passed by Congress immediately after 9/11 authorizing the use of military force against those responsible for the terrorist attack and granted the President the authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided” in 9/11.

Section 1021 of the NDAA codifies this authority of the AUMF and defines a “covered person” subject to this authority as the following:

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

So, in effect, this section puts a Congressional stamp of approval on the administration’s interpretation of the AUMF, even though the AUMF does not explicitly state anything about powers of detention.

The new language that is added to the NDAA that was not in the original AUMF is the phrase “substantially supported.”

This phrase is dangerously broad and could, perhaps, be used to detain someone only tangentially involved in organizations hostile to the United States.

Furthermore, when someone is detained that is deemed a “covered person,” the NDAA allows for four options for disposition, including trial by a military commission, trial by an alternate court or tribunal, or transfer of custody to the person’s country of origin or any foreign entity.

But the most terrifying option is “detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”

Considering the War on Terror could potentially last forever, a person could reasonably be held indefinitely without trial under this provision.

However, contained is this provision is also language that says, “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.”

While it seems to exempt U.S. citizens, it still allows the potential for the detainment of U.S. citizens if captured outside of the United States.

But the next section does seem to allow for the potential for American citizens to be detained.

Section 1022 of the bill refers to a subset of “covered persons” defined as “a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force” and someone who “participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.”

If a person is detained that falls under this subset, the bill says the requirement for military custody “does not extend to citizens to the United States.”

The key word here is “requirement,” which does seem to suggest that the option for indefinite military detainment is still available but is simply not mandatory.

When Obama signed the NDAA into law (after backing down from his empty veto threat), he also offered a signing statement that said, “I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.

“Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation. My administration will interpret Section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war and all other applicable law.”

While that might be true (it’s too early to tell), it really suggests only that the Obama administration will not interpret the NDAA to include American citizens but completely leaves open the possibility that subsequent administrations will have a different interpretation.

Ultimately whether or not these provisions of the NDAA will be used in the worst-case scenario manner that critics fear is yet to be determined.

But there is no question that the bill absolutely could be interpreted to be used in such a manner, even if such a worst-case scenario is perhaps unlikely.

This is just the recent in a long line of measures the Obama administration has supported that curtail civil liberties in this country. Obama has proven to be just as hawkish, if not more so, on foreign policy than the Bush administration —  and many liberals and progressives are starting to feel this is not what they voted for in 2008.

The very fact that this legal ambiguity exists in a bill such as this is utterly unforgivable.

While the NDAA might not exactly be the end of the Bill of Rights as we know it, the bill is a dangerous piece of legislation that should have never been passed or signed into law with such shameful and troubling ambiguities.

 W. Paul Smith
Opinions Editor 

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Ron Paul offers much to like and dislike

Ron Paul, who had a strong third and second place showing recently in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively, is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to presidential candidates.

He’s running as a Republican but counts among his supporters people from all sides of the ideological spectrum, from anti-regulation libertarians to Occupy Wall Street protestors, from leftist 9/11 Truthers to right-wing white supremacists.

While it may be a moot point considering Mitt Romney will almost certainly be the eventual Republican nominee, I would like to examine who exactly is Ron Paul and where he stands on the issues.

The former obstetrician-gynecologist has served as a Republican congressman for Texas’ 14th district since 1997, and over the years has solidified a reputation as a bit of a renegade who marches to the beat of his own drum.

Part of the reason Paul garners such a wide cross-section of support is because his positions on the issues offer a little for everyone to like — and perhaps dislike.

For example, he appeals to some liberals and progressives (especially the younger ones) because when it comes to the drug war, civil liberties, executive power and some aspects of foreign policy, you could perhaps say that Ron Paul is more progressive than President Obama.

He advocates ending the so-called War on Drugs and supports drug legalization, saying that prohibition doesn’t work and drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem. 

He has taken a strong stance advocating an end to War on Terror and preemptive wars and has condemned the practices of drone attacks and targeted assassinations on American citizens involved with terrorism, all of which Obama supports.

He is the only Republican candidate to come out against the far-overreaching Stop Online Piracy Act and the highly controversial National Defense Authorization Act, which some critics think has provisions that could potentially allow for the indefinite detainment of American citizens.

While these positions have gotten Paul in trouble with the Republican base, he also has positions that appeal to social conservatives: He doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, thinks there is war on Christmas, rejects the theory of evolutionis against gay marriage (though thinks it should be left to for the states to decide) and denies that global warming exists.

When it comes to abortion, Paul considers himself to be strongly pro-life, as he supports a repeal of Roe v. Wade and has introduced the Sanctity of Life Act several times into the House that would have defined human life and legal personhood as starting at conception.

But Paul has also said that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments would not allow the federal government to ban states from performing abortions and feels that abortion is not a constitutional issue. However, in a rare moment of inconsistency, he has voted twice for a federal ban on partial birth abortions.

Paul appeals to those who think government is too big. He thinks that both Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, but stops short of saying he would abolish the programs.

He’s not keen on many federal departments and agencies and wants to eliminate the departments of Energy, Commerce, Interior, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as FEMA.

He’s no fan of many international organizations and global alliances and wants the U.S. to not only pull out of the United Nations but also NATO and the World Health Organization.

Paul even once said the United Nations was a threat to the U.S. that would confiscate firearms, end the Second Amendment, take away private property rights and curtail the right of free religious practice.

He is also against all foreign aid to other countries including Israel.

Paul largely appeals to libertarians, which is the philosophy that seems to inform much of his worldview.

He is a disciple of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, pioneers of the so-called Austrian school of economics (far too complicated to discuss here, but imagine a fanatical reactionary response to Marxism and you’ll start to get the idea) as well as Ayn Rand, who ranks up there with L. Ron Hubbard as one of the worst novelists of the 20th century and believed in pure objective reality.

He comes from the dogmatic school of thought that believes unfettered free market capitalism will solve everything and almost all government regulation will only encroach on people’s freedoms.

It is this libertarian spark that starts to put Paul’s positions into perspective.

Paul essentially believes in the privatization of everything and thinks individual liberty can only be achieved when government has a hands-off approach to nearly every aspect of society, especially business.

In his 1987 book “Freedom Under Siege,” Paul wrote that in a “free society an individual can own and control property and run his or her business as he or she chooses” and that “free people have the right to discriminate.”

Paul has said numerous times that he would have voted against the seminal 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he feels was an affront to liberty and private property.

He rejects the notion that we need regulation to protect people from unfair corporate practices, such as monopolies, racial or sexual discrimination, overworking hours, child labor, etc. He even once said that it was actually capitalism that ended child labor.

And this is where Paul totally goes off the rails for me.

He claims to be against corporatism, but I would submit his economic policies would lead to disastrous results and inch us that much closer to corporate tyranny.

There is no question that sometimes government regulations can be overreaching, ineffective and corrupt just like any other human system, but I think the idea that industries can be entirely self-regulating if we just left them to their own devices is utterly absurd.

First of all, this ignores the fact that much of the bills passed by Congress regulating industries are actually already written by the very industries and their lobbyists that are to be regulated, either weakening the regulation or preventing regulation altogether.

But if the financial crisis of 2008 taught us anything, it’s that private industries cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

Remember the credit ratings agencies, such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s? These were private regulatory agencies that were to set standards for rating investments as either safe or dangerous.

But instead, the credit ratings agencies knowingly rated toxic investments as safe because they were in cahoots with the financial service industry and turned a massive profit from the ratings — one of the key factors in the financial collapse.

And, no, capitalism did not end child labor. Child labor was ended in the U.S. with unions and federal regulations after many hard-fought years of workers’ struggle through political activism.

In fact, many American corporations still engage in child labor in other countries, such as Apple. I know we can’t live without our iPhones and iPads, but we all need to understand they were built in part by child labor and sweat shops in China.

And why China? Because China doesn’t have regulations that outlaw such practices like we do in America.

I feel the failure to understand this simple truth of the relationship between capitalism and regulation is to be totally out of touch with reality. We should be calling for better more effective regulations, not wanting all regulations to be abolished.

Of course, if you don’t agree with this notion, then perhaps Paul is your candidate. Ultimately, whether you want to support Ron Paul depends on which issues are of most importance to you.

But I’m certainly glad he is a candidate, because he offers something new and substantive to the debate and a challenge to the status quo whether you agree or disagree — and if that makes him an anomaly in American politics then I welcome it.

W. Paul Smith
Opinions Editor 

Cartoon courtesy of Andy Marlette/amarlette@pnj.com

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