The following commentary was written by Nick Sibilla, a former BORDC Summer of 2012 intern.
A new bill by state Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer would restore due process in Montana and counter the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in December 2012, the NDAA codifies indefinite detention for those accused of supporting al-Qaeda and its “associated forces,” a very broad term. Even American citizens could be held indefinitely in military custody without due process.
If passed, the bill would “prohibit state cooperation with federal officials regarding indefinite detention.” LC 1810 would ban indefinite detention within the state of Montana. In addition, the state attorney general would be instructed to report any efforts made by federal agents to implement the NDAA. So far, the bill has garnered two cosponsors: state Rep. Mike Miller and Daniel Zolnikov. Both are Republicans, as is Schwaderer.
In an email interview, Schwaderer proclaimed his anti-NDAA bill was a way “to support the Constitution and defend liberty:”
“This legislation is a fulfillment of my commitment to Montanans to support the constitution and defend liberty. This is the result of hard work by a bipartisan coalition of folks who recognize that the concept of indefinite detention without charge or trial is repugnant to a free society.”
A freshman representative, Schwaderer is already earning a reputation for what he calls his “small government, conservative principles.” Schwaderer was the only representative to vote against giving more compensation to Montana legislators. He’s cosponsored a bill to restrict drones in Big Sky airspace. A broader bill recently passed by the Montana Senate prohibits weaponizing drones and bans using intelligence gathered by drones in court.
This Republican is also leading a push to repeal Montana’s outdated “sodomy” law. The Montana Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have both struck down sodomy bans as unconstitutional. Yet under state law, anyone who has sex with someone of their same sex could still face a potential $50,000 fine and 10 years imprisonment. “In Montana we have a legacy of respecting people’s rights. This flies in the face of what we're about,” Schwaderer said in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Schwaderer’s bill is just the latest in a nationwide movement against the NDAA. So far, Hawaii has formally opposed indefinite detention while Virginia codified state noncompliance with federal agents by passing HB 1160 last April. According to the Tenth Amendment Center, a dozen states are currently considering anti-NDAA legislation. Last June, the Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution condemning indefinite detention. In December, the Michigan House unanimously approved an anti-NDAA bill. That bill prevents state law enforcement or members of the Michigan National Guard from aiding federal officials who are involved with “any investigation, prosecution, or detention of any person pursuant to section 1021 of the national defense authorization act.”
On top of that, 17 local communities have passed resolutions opposing the NDAA. These counties and cities encompass the entire political spectrum, ranging from progressive Takoma Park, MD and Berkeley, CA to Fulton County, PA, a county that has supported the Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1964. Meanwhile, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee is tracking over a dozen more cities and counties considering opposing indefinite detention and resisting the NDAA. Plus, anyone can start their own local campaign to restore due process with a toolkit from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
(Disclosure: Schwaderer is a friend of the author.)