NDAA: The Threat to Our Rights

In the closing days of the 112th Congress, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) despite threatening to veto the legislation over prohibitions on closing Guantanamo Bay prison camp.  Back in 2008, then-Senator Obama ran promising to close the prison camp there and even signed an Executive Order after being sworn into office doing just that.  The problem?  No one wanted the people we were holding there in their states.  In reversing course and signing the NDAA of 2013, the President said that it contained the budget for the armed forces… $633 billion.  It might be worth noting that that wouldn’t have been necessary if the President and Congress had passed a budget.  It’s a two-pronged effort since it must get through both chambers of Congress plus the president.  However, neither side seems to be able to come up with one that is suitable.  The last time President Obama submitted a budget, even his own party rejected it.

nullify-the-NDAA-300x258The NDAA is nothing new.  There has been one the past few years.  At the end of 2011, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.  This is the same Congress that passed the one for 2013, as well.  It is a huge document that most people really paid no attention to when it was signed into law.  However, there are some parts to the legislation that the citizens of the US should be greatly alarmed at… in particular Section 1021, (b-2).  This particular part of the legislation gives the President of the United States the right to be judge, jury, and executioner of any American citizen living overseas that the president sees as a threat to our country.  Let me reiterate that… judge, jury, and executioner of any American citizens living overseas.  American citizens, regardless of where they live, are protected by the US Constitution when it comes to US laws.  This is clearly a violation of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution, and it gives the president authoritarian power in terms of this.  This particular thing has been legal since long before the NDAA of 2012.  In fact, according to an article in the New York Times, this goes back to at least 2010, and the public (and the media) has paid no attention to it whatsoever.

Imagine that you are a US citizen living in a foreign country.  Yes, you are bound to follow the laws of that foreign country while you are living there, but you are also protected under the US Constitution.  The President of the United States now has the authority to determine if you are guilty of being a threat to the United States and has the right to issue an order to have you killed.  You do not get a trial and there is no jury of your peers.  The president has sole authority without any checks and balances, and usually the person will be eliminated in a drone strike if it is possible.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” 5th Amendment

Let’s look at the case of Bradley Manning who is accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.  These included videos, diplomatic cables, and army reports.  Manning is currently being held in Fort Leavenworth waiting for his trial in February 2013.  He was transferred to Fort Leavenworth after several American legal scholars claimed that his detention at the Marine Corp Brig in Virginia violated his Constitutional rights.  Now Manning is going to have a trial for his accused crimes.  But the NDAA also sets up another dangerous precedent in that it would criminalize anyone who leaks anything and any journalist who receives a leak and publishes it.  So now we have this same document violating the Freedom of the Press that falls in the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.  Yes, there is information that is classified as it would be detrimental to current situations.  And yes, leaking that information is wrong and should be punishable… unless there is wrong-doing and leaking that information makes people aware and holds those perpetrating those wrong actions accountable.  Regardless though, the government does not have any right to dictate to the press what it can and cannot print, and it has no right to hold any journalist accountable for printing any information that is leaked.

ndaa-2012bIn the election of 2008, then-Senator Obama ran against the Patriot Act that had been signed by President George W. Bush in 2001.  Since then, he has expanded the Patriot Act and has signed off the National Defense Authorization Acts.  The power that the government had that he opposed, he now supports and has expanded.  According to The Atlantic, the military has the right to hold American citizens in indefinite detention without trial as terrorism suspects.  The key words there, again, are “American citizens.”  It would seem as though Congress is purposely going out of its way to bypass the 5th Amendment which was designed to protect us from this.  And President Obama is going along with it, and is the main person benefiting from the power the NDAA has written in it.  It’s interesting how the Patriot Act (or previous National Defense Authorization Acts) didn’t get any attention in the previous election after it had received so much in the 2008 election.

The NDAA allows the president to launch drone attacks where a threat is detected.  In 2009, we were the sole owner of drones.  Not so much these days.  And since 2009, we have expanded the number of countries we are launching drone attacks in… some even without the consent of that country which means we are now violating international laws.  If we aren’t careful, history just might remember this time period as The Drone Wars.  We are setting a dangerous precedent with these laws and with our actions.  At the top, no one person should ever have the authority… the sole authority… to be judge, jury, and executioner.  The US Constitution says, “provide for the common defense,”  but that is turning out to be the excuse that is used to strip away our rights and concentrate power at the top of our government.  Our entire government was set-up to prevent that from happening, and we the people were given guaranteed rights to protect us from it.  But here we are confronting that very thing, and most of us aren’t paying attention to even see it happening.

SIDENOTE:
President Obama has nominated John Brennan to lead the CIA, which the Senate must now confirm.  Brennan helped shape the strategy for drone attacks and has sharply increased their use especially in Yemen and Pakistan.

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