National Defense Authorization Act
By: John Hampton
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a law that has been enacted annually for the last 48 years. It is used to determine the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense. The Senate has already passed its version of the 2012 bill (S-1867) as has the House of Representatives (HR-1540).
Drafted by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, S-1867 contains two sections (1031 and 1032), which have become quite controversial because of their potential to greatly diminish our Constitutional right to due process of law. Section 1031, AFFIRMATION OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE, defines Covered Persons who would be subject to detention under this provision, and the possible disposition of persons who are actually detained.
One provision of S-1867 declares American soil a battlefield and allows the President and all future Chief Executives to order the military to arrest and detain American citizens, innocent or not, without charge or trial. In essence, it gives the President the power to silence any individual or group, not in acquiescence with his policies.
By definition, Covered Persons must in some way give aid or support to terrorist individuals or groups. Those are pretty specific prerequisites, but you don’t get elected President of the United States without being able to skillfully craft a document that creates whatever impression you feel is most advantageous. So it is possible that Americans, living in America, could be targeted for nonspecific reasons and held indefinitely by the military without access to an attorney or a speedy trial.
This is an abuse of power and authority that our Constitutional Republic will not bear. However, both the House and the Senate passed their bills by more than the required two thirds majorities needed to override a Presidential veto, should one occur. And the Administration has said that a veto is possible.
Now, let us not forget about section 1032 because it says in part: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States”. That certainly sounds like U.S. citizens would be exempt from this unreasonable intrusion. So why did I elaborate on the potential danger posed to Americans by section 1031?
Some would argue that section 1032 alone is sufficient protection for U.S. citizens. But not so fast! As mentioned above, the Administration has said that a veto is possible – but why? Is the President considering a veto because he is looking out for the American people? I would like to think so, but my cynical side will not allow it. There is evidence to show that a veto may be forthcoming because of the existence of section 1032. In other words, the Administration is opposed to U.S. citizens being exempted from this legislation, and may veto it unless section 1032 is removed.
Additional information on the veto threat can be found here. As convoluted as the explanation is, the final paragraph does help clarify the intent. “Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto”. I interpret this to be the words of an all knowing Administration that wants no restrictions of any kind on anything they think they might ever need to do. “Collect intelligence” and “protect the Nation” – such vague language could be used as justification to monitor and regulate a wide range of behavior.
As evidenced by Congressional vote, a majority of politicians seem convinced that the NDAA poses no threat to our liberty. But as we have learned, politicians are expert at promulgating oral and written decrees that can be interpreted in whatever way best suits their motives at a given time. And S-1867 alone is almost 700 pages in length. It is hard to imagine that every member of the Senate took the time to carefully read and consider each page. For these reasons, I believe we should be concerned about a further erosion of our freedom and our liberty.
If this bill becomes law and Americans are indeed subjected to the provisions of section 1031, it will be a stunning abrogation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution. An abrogation that may well be irreversible, even in the event of a GOP sweep in the 2012 elections, as a majority of Republicans in Congress have already voted in favor of it.
John Hampton lives in Tehachapi CA and is quite concerned about the policies and motives of the current Administration. He believes in a system that holds our freedoms sacred, promotes personal responsibility, prudence and high moral standards.