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FUTURE HEADLINE: American Soldiers Seize & Detain U.S. Citizens as Police Block Press From Scene

Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily. by David Harris-Gershon
How has it come to this? How is it possible that President Obama will be the one to codify, for the first time since the McCarthy era, the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens? I will get to the answer. However, first, let me defend the title of this post by making clear that the revised National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) set to be signed by Obama - called "an astonishing attack on our civil liberties" by Sam Seder - indeed legislatively grants the U.S. military the authority to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens on American soil without a trial or charge. While this codified detention authority is intended to be used on terror suspects, the categories of those who can be detained are so slippery and amorphous that they could, in the future, be potentially applied to anyone. Donny Shaw at OpenCongress offers an analysis I wholly support:
The language of the bill authorizes indefinite military detention without trial for anyone who has "substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners." The key phrases there - "substantial support," "associated forces," "hostilities" - lay the groundwork for the military's detention power to be extended beyond al-Qaeda and the Taliban to anyone providing support for potentially any group that is hostile towards the U.S., domestic or abroad. For example, if a lone-wolf domestic terrorist claimed allegiance to an activist group or cause, nothing in this prevents the military from labeling the entire group "hostile" and using this power to detain them without trial. And the consistent over reactions to social uprisings of the increasingly militarized police forces across the U.S. does not help assuage concerns that this language could be used to justify cracking down on legitimate, constitutionally protected political action.
The most concerning phrase, for me, is "associated forces." Who is to say that Occupy Wall Street protesters - joined by people "associated" with those who "support" a terror organization - could not be lumped, wholesale, under this authority? It's not like militarized police forces across this country aren't practically simulating this authority by arresting and detaining U.S. citizens, without charge, for merely engaging in nonviolent, anti-corporate protests. It's not like an independent journalist, John Knefel, wasn't just this week held for 37 hours, without charge, by the NYPD for Tweeting during an Occupy Wall Street protest. And it's not just the protesters. Police across this country continue to suppress journalists' First Amendment rights by preventing them from covering these pseudo detentions. Perhaps it's because such journalists are being viewed as "associated" with the protesters in so much as they are a vehicle through which their messages, and experienced abuses, can be transmitted. See how that works?

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Both the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, in condemning President Obama's plan to sign NDAA into law, noted the following historical anecdote: In the 1950s, President Truman was faced with the Internal Security Act, a McCarthy production which authorized the detention of Communists and "subversives" without due process. What did Truman do? He said it would "make a mockery of the Bill of Rights" and vetoed it. (The veto was overridden, and the powers enshrined were eventually repealed in 1971.) And so we turn to President Obama, a president who is poised to champion powers similar to those Truman rejected. How did we get here? As Glenn Greenwald (and others) have cogently explained, this legislation is merely codifying powers President Obama believes he already has at his disposal. Here's Greenwald:
...while the powers this bill enshrines are indeed radical and dangerous, most of them already exist. That's because first the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have aggressively argued that the original 2001 AUMF already empowers them to imprison people without charges, use force against even U.S. citizens without due process (Anwar Awlaki), and target not only members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (as the law states) but also anyone who "substantially supports" those groups and/or "associated forces" (whatever those terms mean). That's why this bill states that it does not intend to change the 2001 AUMF (even as it codifies far broader language defining the scope of the war) or the detention powers of the President, and it's why they purposely made the bill vague on whether it expressly authorizes military detention of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil: it's because the bill's proponents and the White House both believe that the President already possesses these broadened powers with or without this bill.

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I feel this country I love slowly slipping from my fingers. Which is an illusion, really, for it was never within my grasp in the first place. The expansion of state powers broadened during the Bush era, powers ripe for civil liberty abuses, are being codified by a President who once campaigned against the very practices now being embraced. The expansion of unchecked police powers - of unconstitutional and illegal First Amendment violations - are being witnessed in our public parks and urban streets with little or no recourse (though suits are being filed). I feel extracted. I feel as though the rights I have as a citizen to petition the government, to oppose the government, are being extracted. I feel as though the corporate, financial conglomerates and the military industrial complexes are extracting not just my personal capital (taxes), but my very American soul. And I refuse to have everything be taken without a fight.

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Follow the author – David Harris-Gershon – on Twitter @David_EHG. To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkunon Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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