Earlier this month the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 93 to 7 in favor of approving the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes the military to unilaterally detain indefinitely without trial any individual anywhere in the world – including U.S. citizens within the U.S.
The bill affirms the “authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force… to detain [anyone]… who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina made it clear that the “authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”
“If you’re an American citizen and you betray your country you’re going to be held in military custody,” Graham said in support of the legislation. “You’re going to be questioned about what you know, and you’re not going to be given a lawyer if our national security interests dictate that you not be given a lawyer.”
In addition to scrapping the writ of habeas corpus, the NDAA would effectively nullify the Fifth and Sixth Amendments guaranteeing “no person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” and “…the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury… and… be
informed of the nature and cause of the accusation…,” respectively.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.”
“These [detainee-related] provisions have been substantially modified as a result of extensive discussions with Administration officials,” Levin said when
introducing the bill in November.
President Obama – who has a background in constitutional law – has threatened to veto the bill, but not for the obvious threat it poses to fundamental American principles. Rather, the administration is only concerned that the bill will interfere with the quasi-dictatorial presidential powers set up following 9/11.
“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,” the White House said in a statement.
Moreover, when the president acknowledges “the serious and unsettled legal questions” the legislation would raise, he speaks only of the “fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.”
After all, on what principled basis could President Obama object to the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens when he has already personally ordered and overseen the assassination of the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki without charges or trial?
Upon announcing the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Iraq in October, the president claimed “The tide of war is receding.” Why then would Congress and the White House seek to deepen and expand the extra-constitutional presidential power to wage war and detain U.S. citizens on American soil?
The answer is simple. As this author has previously insisted, the threat of terrorism and the bogus “War on Terror” were used as a pretext to erect the scaffolding of a police state behind the crumbling façade of American democracy.
The real threat the American ruling class has been preoccupied with over the past decade has been the impending confrontation it anticipates with the working population. They are well aware that the decline in living standards, high unemployment, and rising poverty for the majority is incompatible with the nation’s traditional democratic principles and will provoke a challenge to their rule from below.