WASHINGTON D.C.—President Barack Obama has agreed to possibly take away any U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights to a fair trial.
On 31 December 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), which-based on the interpretation of the acting president- could give the government power to militarily and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents on U.S. soil, if such people are suspected of terrorism or aiding a terrorist.
The 14 December 2011 House of Representatives vote for the NDAA was equally split among Democrats yet overwhelmingly supported by Republicans. Though, California’s Congressional District (CD) 40 Republican Representative Ed Royce opposed the legislation while the State’s CD 47 Democrat Representative Loretta Sanchez did not vote.
At the time of this article’s publication, the Viễn Đông did not receive comment from either Representative Royce or Representative Sanchez as to why they voted the way they did.
The Senate passed the NDAA, or HR 1540, on 15 December 2011, both California's U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer supporting it.
“The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield,” an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blog reads. “Any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA.”
Ms. Sara AbiBoutros, who has been involved with the international, political and socioeconomic Occupy Movement, told the Viễn Đông that under the NDAA and according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) definition of “terrorist,” her role as an Occupy protester could lead to her being indefinitely detained.
Since November 2011, the Viễn Dông has covered the Occupy Movement, which began in New York City (NYC) and San Francisco in September 2011, culminating into international civic disobedient acts including marches, city hall and home occupations, as well as port shutdowns.
“My biggest concern is the vague language in defining what constitutes being a terrorist,” Ms. AbiBoutros told the Viễn Đông of the NDAA’s language, adding that though the NDAA does not necessarily define terrorist, as the FBI does, it gives the government permission on how to treat such people. “The FBI’s definition of a terrorist is laughable.”
Although the FBI recognizes that “there is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism,” it defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Anyone participating in such activities is considered a “terrorist.”
Ms. AbiBoutros added that the NDAA is also unclear about what it means for someone to “aid terrorists.”
For example, she continued, if she were to create a blog and a terrorist organization saw it and decided to use the information she displayed, she could be considered as aiding a terrorist.
Although California's U.S. Senator Feinstein, who is also Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, supported the NDAA, she had objections with its indefinite detention provisions and offered an amendment that would clearly state that military detention is only applicable to suspected terrorists captured outside of the United States.
Her amendment was struck down by a 55-45 vote in the Senate.
On 14 December 2011, she introduced legislation to Congress that could keep U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are seized domestically from being detained indefinitely by the military.
Her bill, “Due Process Guarantee Act”, or S. 2003, could ensure that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have their right to a fair trial.
“The argument is not whether citizens such as Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla-or others who would do us harm-should be captured, interrogated, incarcerated and severely punished. They should be,” she was quoted in a press release. “But what about an innocent American? What about someone in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
Congress has yet to vote on S. 2003.
Regarding the NDAA, the ACLU is depending on an eventual U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the authority Congress has to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, arrested in the United States.