Sections 1021 and 1022 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allow the military to detain any person suspected of aiding terrorists indefinitely and without trial. As The Guardian (UK) put it, the law “effectively extends the battlefield in the ‘war on terror’ to the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention.” What is new is the expansion of this principle to U.S. soil—it now becomes a technique for “domestic policing,” a realm formerly governed by strict provisions in the Bill of Rights, including the presumption of innocence and the rights to due process and a fair trial. Despite assurances to the contrary, this law flagrantly violates the Bill of Rights.
The vaguely worded NDAA gives blanket power to the president and his military: the difficult judgment calls which rightfully belong to a public process are now to be rendered behind closed doors, with few definite regulations, perhaps even without the participation of any judicial institution. Such provisions pave the way for all kinds of horrific abuse of government and military power. The sordid history of indefinite detention in the U.S. speaks to this potential for abuse: think of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
This bill would prohibit an agency in the State of California, a political subdivision of this state, an employee of an agency or a political subdivision of this state, as specified, or a member of the California National Guard, on official state duty, from knowingly aiding an agency of the Armed Forces of the United States in any investigation, prosecution, or detention of a person within California pursuant to (1) Sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA), (2) the federal law known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, enacted in 2001, or (3) any other federal law, except as specified, if the state agency, political subdivision, employee, or member of the California National Guard would violate the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, or any law of this state by providing that aid.
The groups we work with are diverse and transpartisan…With such a wide swathe of Californians supporting action against the NDAA’s indefinite military detention provisions, I urge you to vote to move AB 351 out of committee. President Obama signed the 2013 NDAA without any comment on the indefinite military detention provisions, and even Senator Feinstein’s problematic due process amendment was removed from the 2013 NDAA when the bill went to committee. Clearly, the conversation is stalled at the federal level. However, California is seen as a national policy leader. By taking leadership on this important issue, we will ensure that civil liberties are front and center at a national level.
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