When the National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, its proclaimed purpose was to help make the United States a more secure place for all those who inhabit it and help to protect us from those who wish to do harm to our nation. However, the NDAA contains provisions that could allow indefinite and arbitrary military detention, without a trial or day in court, of anyone accused of any “belligerent act” or terror-related offense—including "material support" allegations based strictly on speech or association. It essentially subjects everyone within the US (including citizens, legal residents, and visitors) to the same lawless standards at work in Guantánamo Bay.
The provision of the NDAA that has received the bulk of the scrutiny is section 1021, which includes the following passage:
Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force...includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons...pending disposition under the law of war.
As BORDC Executive Director Shahid Buttar puts it, the NDAA authorizes the “indefinite military detention, without trial, of anyone based on accusation, and that authority does extend to US citizens…in the wrong hands it could essentially represent the end of democracy as we know it.”
The detention provisions of the NDAA are frightening. Anyone suspected of being an enemy to the United States can be detained by the military, indefinitely and without trial. It is an unofficial extension of the PATRIOT Act and gives our government another way to assert their control over their citizens.
Although one section of the NDAA does state: “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,” it does not change the fact that We the People, as citizens of the “free” United States of America, are now vulnerable to military detention, even if the right to habeas corpus remains.
If a suspect is held in military detention without the right to trial, there is no way to determine whether that person is truly guilty or instead an innocent victim of arbitrary detention. Travis Kelly, writing at antiwar.com, states:
[T]he Pentagon is going to decide some of these criminal cases with no trial and ensure that many innocent people are not caught in the dragnet? And not abused Abu Ghraib-style? How do you prove your innocence from a dungeon? Without providing lawyers or any due process at all, the DOD is going to do a better job than our imperfect judicial systems have done?
We now live in a country where our own military could be used to detain innocent Americans.
What can we do to protect ourselves? One way we can start is in our local communities. Join the movement to restore freedom to our great nation.