Can we expect to see the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial or Constitutional protections?

To say that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012 contains some troubling provisions would be an understatement. Among them is a set of provisions that expressly empowers the President — with regard to anyone who “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners” – to detain those individuals “without trial until the end of the hostilities.”

Put plainly, the National Defense Authorization Act would give the President the power to imprison anyone – including U.S. citizens – indefinitely without a trial or any of the legal protections afforded to U.S. citizens by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Over at the Huffington Post, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota wrote an excellent editorial explaining why he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.

With this defense authorization act, Congress will, for the first time in 60 years, authorize the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial, according to its advocates. This would be the first time that Congress has deviated from President Nixon’s Non-Detention Act. And what we are talking about here is that Americans could be subjected to life imprisonment without ever being charged, tried, or convicted of a crime, without ever having an opportunity to prove their innocence to a judge or a jury of their peers. And without the government ever having to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I think that denigrates the very foundations of this country. It denigrates the Bill of Rights. It denigrates what our Founders intended when they created a civilian, non-military justice system for trying and punishing people for crimes committed on U.S. soil. Our Founders were fearful of the military–and they purposely created a system of checks and balances to ensure we did not become a country under military rule. This bill undermines that core principle, which is why I could not support it.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, and this wasn’t the way to mark its birthday.

And for more reading on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, check out Glenn Greenwald’s piece over at, where he debunks three myths about the NDAA.

It’s worth noting that the NDAA passed a vote in the House of Representatives with a vast majority of “freedom loving, anti-government intrusion” Republicans supporting the measure, so for all their talk about how they want to limit government intrusion into the lives of our nation’s citizens, those Republicans who voted for the NDAA have clearly and unambiguously demonstrated that they support government intrusion into our lives (and government violating our Constitutionally-protected rights) when it’s politically expedient.

Oh, and shame on those Democrats (Wisconsin’s Rep. Ron Kind, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz among them) who voted to allow some of the most basic principles upon which our nation was founded to be forfeited in the name of “national security.”


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