Obama to sign off on National Defense Authorization Act
President Obama will soon into law a bill that puts the United States not immeasurably far behind North Korea in contempt of constitutional protections for its citizens, or constitutional restraints upon criminal behavior sanctioned by the state.
A couple of months ago came a mile marker in America’s steady slide downhill towards the status of a Banana Republic, with Obama’s assertion that he has the right as president to order secretly the assassination, without trial, of a US citizen he deems to be working with terrorists. This followed his betrayal of his 2009 pledge to end the indefinite imprisonment without charges or trial of prisoners in Guantanamo.
Now, after months of declaring that he would veto such legislation, Obama has now crumbled and will soon sign a monstrosity called the Levin/McCain detention bill, named for its two senatorial sponsors, Carl Levin and John McCain. It’s snuggled into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
The detention bill mandates – don’t glide too easily past that word – that all accused terrorists be indefinitely imprisoned by the military rather than in the civilian court system; this includes US citizens within the borders of the United States.
Anyone familiar with this sort of “emergency” legislation knows that those drafting the statutes like to cast as wide a net as possible. In this instance the detention bill authorizes use of military force against anyone who “substantially supports” al-Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces”. Of course “associated forces” can mean anything. The bill’s language mentions “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or who has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”–This is exactly the sort of language that can be bent at will by any prosecutor.
Since 1878 here in the US, the Posse Comitatus Act has limited the powers of local governments and law enforcement agencies from using federal military personnel to enforce the laws of the land. The detention bill renders the Posse Comitatus Act a dead letter.
[Excerpt of an article by Alexander Cockburn]