NDAA violates American Rights

Jessica Jewell

Illustration by Gabriel Orendain-Necochea / Visual Editor

On December 31, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law.

The bill allows the government to hand over suspected terrorists to the military for indefinite detention—including U.S. citizens. Suspects are also subjected to potentially being held on foreign soil in facilities like Guantanamo Bay. People under scrutiny by the NDAA are tried under a military tribunal instead of a judicial court, violating their Fourth Amendment rights.

Proponents argue the NDAA helps the President and military fight both global and domestic terrorism, keeping the American people safe. From their perspective, it’s crucial for American leaders to have unbridled powers in the context of homeland security in order to prevent future attacks.

On the contrary, the NDAA negates fundamental American values. The language grants presidents extra-judicial powers, bypassing constitutional checks and balances. The legislation is blatantly unconstitutional, as the NDAA denies both alleged terrorists, co-conspirators or supporters, the right to Habeas Corpus and Fourth Amendment rights both domestically and abroad.

CSUN instructor and attorney, Antonio Gallo shared his thoughts on the ramifications of the NDAA.

“Most of America ignorantly believes that safety comes before their constitutional rights,” said Gallo. “Those who are deemed a ‘terrorist’ or are in the wrong place at the wrong time could be affected, changing their lives forever.”

Who falls under the cross hairs of the NDAA? According to section 1021 in the bill, it’s anyone, “who was a part or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.”

Who will be constituted as “associated forces?” What does it mean to “substantially support?”

The Obama administration defines an additional category of potential detainees as “unprivileged enemy belligerents,” similar to the Bush administration’s label of “unlawful enemy combatant.”

The language defining potential suspects eligible for detainment is vague to put it lightly. The climate the government is creating with loose explanations that can be easily manipulated as to who is liable for investigation, surveillance and ultimately, unconstitutional detainment is as flimsy as a house of cards.

“Most of America ignorantly believes that safety comes before their constitutional rights,” Gallo said.

If the United States government sets a precedent that denies people of a fair trial and opens doors to codified indefinite detention the slippery slope will only become more slick, further stripping American people of their inherent civil rights and creating a toxic social environment where anyone can come under the radar as a suspect.

While the bill was still going through congress, President Obama released a statement that he would veto the legislation should it pass, but then signed it into law.

“Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” Obama said in a statement issued Dec. 31, 2011.

It may be accurate that under Obama’s presidency no American citizen will be subjected to indefinite detention (so he says), but his statement holds zero traction once he leaves office. The bill is now signed into law, and if any president hereafter decides they want to detain American citizens, they have the authority to do so.

Obama’s failure to intercept this dangerous and quintessentially contrary to American values and is only further alienating potential voters. He came into office preaching he’d shut down illegal operations like torture in Guantanamo, or even more importantly, its very existence. Now he goes ahead signing a bill that not only condones its operation, but further validates its purpose; only now, American citizens are in danger of imprisonment.

Unless the Supreme Court reverses the law, there is nothing to stop presidents from carrying out systematic detention of accused people without trial, tried by a military tribunal, falling deeper into a fascist police state.

The founding fathers would roll in their graves if they could see how their prized constitution is being bastardized for the sake of political gain and power plays.

The American people need to wake up and see that they are selling their rights away like spare body parts to crooked organ brokers. One day they’ll realize that it’s too late as the system they depend on to provide them the “liberties” they so cherish will have fallen to the wayside and replaced with a totalitarian police state shrouded in a guise of keeping its citizens “secure.”