A new law approved by Congress and signed by Barack Obama yesterday essentially negates the 4th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, regarding unreasonable searches and seizures, the requirement for a warrant prior to arrest, and the prohibition of arrest and detainment without due process of law.
Called ‘the National Defense Authorization Act’ (NDAA), the new law allows the military to detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism indefinitely, without a trial. For the first time since the Civil War the U.S. military will have the authority to engage in the pursuit and detention of suspected criminals on American soil.
Although the specific language of the original bill does not expand the powers of the President to detain citizens indefinitely without a trial, proponents of the new law say that in its final form it is designed to codify recent court decisions that would do exactly that, giving the President the authority to designate citizens as ‘enemy combatants’ who could then be detained without a warrant or trial, and sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba along with some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world.
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, had the following assessment of the bill:
“By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law. In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”
It should be noted that the bill had broad, bipartisan support of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
However, at least 3 members of the Administration testified before Congress that they oppose the measure, including FBI Director Robert Mueller, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
But it was Obama himself who demanded that the provision of the detainment of enemy combatants apply to U.S. citizens to begin with.
In addition, some media outlets, including conservative sites such as Red State, are erroneously reporting that the bill does not apply to U.S. citizens. But the bill’s sponsors in Congress, Carl Levin, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, all stated on the Senate floor that the bill precisely applies to Americans on U.S. soil.
Levin’s words should quickly dispel the notion that the bill does not apply to U.S. citizens:
“The language which precluded the application of Section 1031 to American citizens was in the bill that we originally approved…and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that U.S. citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.”
Thus, the original bill submitted to Congress excluded the clause that would apply to American citizens. But the White House threatened a veto, which prompted Senate Democrats, who control the chamber, to remove the language, thus allowing the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military to be a key provision of the bill, assuring Obama’s signature.
The ominous implications of the new law are perfectly encapsulated by a news report published today by the Guardian in the U.K.:
Barack Obama has abandoned a commitment to veto a new security law that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay.
Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing. The legislation has also been strongly criticised by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of “a war that appears to have no end”.
The only question that remains is, will the Courts be inclined to strike down a law that appears to violate every known principle upon which the Framers staked their lives in insuring key safeguards of citizens in the Constitution against incursions into their natural rights?
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