Whenever future civilizations, studying our downfall and ultimate demise, wonder when our empire decided it best to feed on us, arrest us, oppress us, and utilize outright state-sanctioned murder to protect the property of its elites, they will need to look no further than the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act. This fine piece of legislation passed through the Senate today with a 93-7 vote.
20 Things You Should Know About the Bill That Could Ruin America
Last week the U.S. Senate passed 93-7 a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that includes provisions giving the military the right to detain you forever and without charge if they think you're some kind of terrorist. Consider it an early holiday present! There is no exchange policy, sorry.
President Barack Obama can get rid of the Act's indefinite detention provisions by using his veto powers. He says he might do just that, so there is hope. But Hopey could also change his mind at the last minute and let the language become law. Civil libertarians from all sides of the political spectrum are very anxious about the final call he'll make.
Even though you can't do much to prevent the provisions from taking effect, here's a list of 20 details about them. Maybe the info will come in handy when you finally flee to Saudi Arabia ISO political refugee status and have to explain how your country was oppressing you:
- 1. The provisions were passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—enacted for the last 48 years or so to provide funding for the military and all our wars. (The act for fiscal year 2012 awarded $662 billion for defense spending.) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) took the lead in promoting them, making passage a bipartisan effort/failure.
- 2. Initially the provisions passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without a single hearing. The Senate didn't want to spoil the surprise for everybody.
- 3. Because of the provisions, the NDAA now says the military can detain anyone deemed to be "a part of" or deemed to have "substantially supported" Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or "associated forces." You can be on the battlefield, or you can be PayPaling money to your local terrorist cell while sipping your latte at a Starbucks—doesn't matter. Even though we captured Saddam, Osama, and Anwar al-Awlaki, these powers are still necessary. Don't question.
- 4. The bill grants power to the military to arrest U.S. citizens on American soil and detain them in military prisons forever without offering them the right to legal counsel or even a trial. This isn't a totally new thing: "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla spent three-and-a-half years as an "enemy combatant" until he was finally charged. But Padilla's detention was unusual and sparked a huge outcry; the new provisions would standardize his treatment and enable us all to become Jose Padillas.
- 5. Some people are trying to say that language regarding indefinite detention (Section 1031) doesn't apply to American citizens, but it does. However, the mandatory detention requirement (Section 1032) includes an exemption for American citizens, which means the military doesn't have to imprison you forever and ever "unless ordered to do so" by the president. You better remove that Nobama bumper sticker from your truck.
- 6. The provisions could last as long as fruitcake lasts. We covered this earlier.
- 7. Many important people oppose the provisions, including FBI Director Robert Mueller, the CIA, the military, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, the Director of National Intelligence, and your mom (unless she's a U.S. senator).
- 8. A group of 26 retired generals and admirals wrote a letter to the Senate saying the provisions "reduce the options available to our Commander-in-Chief to incapacitate terrorists," and will "do more harm than good." The Senate obviously ignored them.
- 9. According to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who opposes indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, an American can be deemed a "terrorist" after just one hearing. Finally, the government promises to work efficiently on something.
- 10. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) tried to kill the provision on indefinite detention with an amendment that required Congressional review of these brand-new military detention powers, but his effort failed 60 votes to 38.
- 11. All the Republican senators supported the provisions except for Paul and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
- 12. Former Vice President Dick Cheney was in attendance for the vote on behalf of the waterboarding lobby. Every time he heard the words "indefinite detention," he got an erection.
- 13. None of this stuff will ever affect people who are innocent of terrorism-related crimes, unless the government wrongly accuses them.
- 14. As pointed out by Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, the provision dispenses with Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution, which provides that nobody can be punished for treason without heightened due process requirements being met." Goodbye, Art. 3 Sec. 3! Send our regards to the 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendments.
- 15. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the provisions' most vocal supporters, put it this way to the New York Times: "Citizens who are suspected of joining Al Qaeda are opening themselves up 'to imprisonment and death ... And when they say, "I want my lawyer," you tell them: "Shut up. You don't get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda."'" Shut up, fool! Lindsey Graham hates it when you talk.
- 16. Some of the senators who passed this shit don't really know what they are talking about when they talk about "enemy combatants" and their status under existing law.
- 17. President Barack Obama has stated he'll veto the provisions because they would "raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets." They're also confusing.
- 18. The provisions will militarize America even further and—in Graham's words—"basically say[s] in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield." Your backyard is a microcosm of the war on terror. Just think of that every time you host a barbecue.
- 19. They could disappear from the NDAA if the House and Senate conferees who meet in conference committee this week decide to get rid of them.
- 20. Texas Republicans have somehow worked sex with animals into all this.
Now for the good news: Greenwald at Salon says none of this indefinite detention without a lawyer stuff changes the status quo that much. It only codifies what's already been happening in the U.S. for the past few years. So you've been living under these conditions for a while now, but look—you're still not in jail. Just be more careful about what sorts of opinions on the government you post on Twitter, and don't say anything nice about Al Qaeda, and you'll be fine.
Nice to see the Republicans in Texas were able to use the bill to change the UCMJ to legalize bestiality for our military personnel. I guess we now know their values and what makes them tick.
Out of fairness, I will list the seven Senators who still believe in some modicum of human freedom. Yes, dear right-wing left, there are Republicans on this list (even a couple of tea partiers). Let them receive praise, as they deserve, alongside anyone else remaining who still wants to preserve our basic constitutional rights.
Tom Coburn (Republican-Oklahoma)
Tom Harkin (Democrat-Iowa)
Mike Lee (Republican-Utah)
Jeff Merkley (Democrat-Oregon)
Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky)
Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont)
Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon)
Next to these seven brave souls, an entire chamber of Congress today decided to declare war on the citizenry of this country. Understand that this legislation, if implemented, means the end of habeas corpus and your 4-6th Amendment rights in our Constitution. That is not being rhetorical. It is the cold hard reality of the bill.
One, our army will be able to, in the name of anti-terrorism, conduct domestic law enforcement functions, which countermands the Posse Comitatus Act. And you are wrong, Sen. Rubio. The army will be operating as a domestic police force, which is exactly what the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits. You do not need to be on a military patrol to constitute the act's ban on using the army to enforce civilian law. As a lawyer, Senator Rubio, you understand and know about this law (I learned about it as an undergrad and in law school) and you know that it bans the use of the army to enforce the 'laws of the land' (i.e., civilian law). There is no way you can be honestly ignorant of this.
Two, our national government (through our army) will also be able to use the military to arrest you (yes, native-born American citizens [and yes, even those of you who are non-Muslims]) without warrant, search your property without a warrant or cause, and hold you indefinitely without charge. And yes, that means potentially you could be kidnapped by your government and sent off to Guantanamo Bay (although one can only hope the president's executive order banning torture is being followed there).
Three, our national government, under the guise of national security, will have the right to use anti-terrorism as a rationale to have you assassinated on American soil--again, without charge or trial, and on the sole orders of the POTUS. And this not only applies on American soil. You can be given the same treatment abroad, as well. In other words, this law basically declares war on you no matter where you are, and do it without any legal recourse and ability to challenge a charge made against you (since any charge will be made without the benefit of counsel or in a civilian court).
There is no shortage of hyperbole to call this for what it is because the summation of this bill is to cancel our rights. It is a rank assault on our Constitution and worse on all of us as American citizens. We are not to be trusted with rights that we claim to have, by a document that is to no longer apply to our lives, because the likes of Joseph Lieberman and John McCain say so. And while I commend President Obama for denouncing parts of the bill, there are more than enough votes to override his veto (if this were to happen). I do not think I need to tell you what the Republican Congressional leadership and every one of the party's presidential candidates not named Ron Paul think. Of course, you already know the answer.
These are the same people who compare a government subsidy for a private insurance plan to a communistic threat to American values, but who simultaneously support domestic law enforcement tactics that are right out of North Korea. Even Cuba (yes, Cuba) requires its government to charge you with a crime after arrest. On his worst day as president, Lincoln admitted that the suspension of habeas corpus was his worst act and one he felt would damage his judgment by future historians. We are now enshrining a totalitarian government in our country and making it, as Chalmers Johnson called it, our mortal enemy and nemesis. And even if the courts rule it unconstitutional, consider that 93% of the US Senate felt it acceptable to allow the U.S. Army to arrest you without warrant, hold you indefinitely, possibly torture and/or kill you, without charge, without trial, without legal recourse, regardless of your innocence, guilt, or global residence.
I spend quite a bit of time on this blog chronicling the crimes of this country, especially our corporations and government (at this point seemingly joined at the hip), but even Wal-Mart has an appeals process for employees before firing them (even though such a policy is only in its corporate guidelines, not in its charter). We have a Constitution requiring our government to charge us with a crime after arrest, to respect our privacy and personal property, and almost the entire Senate today desecrated the memory of James Madison, shredding over two centuries of the rule of law and the bedrock of our liberties in this republic. Even if we survive this assault legally, we now know what the U.S. Senate thinks of us and our laws and traditions, and sadly I doubt today will be the last day we see the likes of a John McCain (or whoever replaces him) expanding the powers of our police state to abolish the remainder of our rights, so that we are mindless automatons living in a shell of a liberal Constitution as meaningful as the Soviet Union's constitutional provisions protecting free speech under Stalin. If that is not evil, then I will never know what is.