MR Original – The NDAA and Indefinite Detention

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MEDIA ROOTS — How does one determine when one’s society becomes unfree?  A society loses its freedoms not in one fell swoop, but in a slow and systematic erosion of successive legislation.  Like Charles Sullivan’s proverbial frog brought to a slow boil in a pot, the loss of freedom can easily go unnoticed until it’s too late.  Perhaps chattel slavery simply morphed into wage slavery and creeping fascism.

Naomi Wolf’s ominous Letter of Warning to A Young Patriot rings eerily true, as we witness the shredding of the U.S. Constitution and our human rights, by both the Republican and Democrats perpetually elected to office. 

On the first of December, the Senate turned up the burner by passing Senate Bill S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), co-sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Senator Carl Levin, which effectively suspends your Constitutional right to habeas corpus, a legal principal dating back a thousand years guaranteeing individuals the right to appear before a court of law and be provided with the body, or corpus, of evidence against them justifying their detention.  A detainee must be provided with the body of evidence for which they are being held.  If a court is unable to determine sufficient cause, per writ of habeas corpus, is duty-bound to order the individual be freed.

Obama went into immediate damage control mode when the S.1867 scandal broke– early on it was reported that President Obama would veto the NDAA if it passed the House and Senate. 

Then, in a disturbing revelation, Senator Carl Levin stated on the floor that it was Obama himself who insisted on the ‘indefinite detention’ wording within the NDAA.  One Forbes analyst notes, “the law as written is entirely too vague.”  Predictably, the Obama Administration dropped the veto threat and indicated that Obama would sign off on the NDAA the following week.

On Saturday, New Year’s Eve, Obama quietly signed the NDAA with the “truly pernicious” provision for arbitrary indefinite detention of any person anywhere on the planet.

According to the ACLU:

“While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations.”

This sets a ghastly precedent for the Executive role and Wall Street marionettes to further abuse human rights.  Every future president will now have this power.  Thanks, Obama.

S. 1867’s provisions authorize the Executive to activate the U.S. Military within the U.S. borders to conduct domestic ‘terror’ investigations and detain U.S. citizens on U.S. soil indefinitely without a hearing, so long as the government arbitrarily deems them a terrorist threat.  This, essentially, codifies practices already being perpetrated by U.S. forces under pretext of national security and further obliterates the Posse Comitatus Act against activating the U.S. Military against its own people.   

Constitutionally, the writ of habeas corpus may only be suspended per the Constitution, or Congress, in the case of an open rebellion or an invasion of the nation by enemy forces.  These martial exceptions are intended to be used in rare circumstances, in which the well-being of the nation is under immediate threat.

S. 1867 construes the rules of exception in a way that makes them unexceptional. The decade-long War on Terrorism is a war on a tactic, making who might or might not be a threat to national security ambiguous and open to interpretation by those in power.

Denying citizens their most basic rights, such as the writ of habeas corpus, is a move that comes when those in control are especially frightened.  The last time it was suspended, 70 years ago, was in the wave of paranoia following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, in which Asian Americans were tragically detained in Japanese Internment Camps.

We are committing a crime against ourselves by legislating the militarization of society and suspension of basic rights.  On this path, the Bill of Rights as the bedrock of US liberty is on its way to being fully cooked.

Obama’s new campaign slogan for 2012 should be “HOPE… you don’t get indefinitely detained!

Written by Joel Hersch, Felipe Messina and Abby Martin for Media Roots

Photo by flickr user Bob Jagendorf

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