President Obama signed the military defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act this January like every single President always does. However this year, Congress snuck in provisions in the bill that the President publically opposed–but had no choice but to sign the bill into law. The U.S. is occupying two countries, they need to fund it. Obama announced a month later in February that he would not carry out what is becoming known as the “indefinite detention” provision, that would allow the government to detain anyone suspected of terror-related activities without due process indefinitely.
While it was a breath of relief for many, others were left thinking: what about the next President?
While the President has declared he will not carry out the provisions, his words are not written in law and any succeeding Presidents may choose to execute the provisions. Especially, if that next President is Mitt Romney.
The initial fear of the National Defense Authorization Act has quieted since Obama said he will protect due process rights for all, but the fact that there is now a law in place that declares anyone suspected of terror-related activities can be detained indefinitely without trial should leave Americans worrying. The government does not need any actual hard evidence to detain a suspect. This could, and will, lead to the detention of many innocent, and most likely, Muslim and Middle-Eastern descent Americans.
When in the past have we seen what happens when due process is suspended? I wrote another blog post a few months ago about Guantanamo and Bradly Manning being some examples, but I think another example that is even greater and may strike more fear in Americans are the Japanese internment camps. Japanese were forced into internment camps after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued the order to have anyone as little as 1/16th Japanese to be detained in fear that they could be conspiring with the Japanese government to launch another attack on American soil.
We should be afraid that the government has the power to declare anyone terror suspects, and detain them indefinitely. That’s why we need a law in place to protect our constituional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees Due Process to all persons in the United States.
Luckily, there’s already a bill in place to do just that.
The Due Process Guarantee Act was introduced by Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi in December 2011 in response to the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill will clarify the provisions under the NDAA that authorize indefinite detention to terror-related suspects by exempting US citizens and lawful permanent residents from it. Due process will never be suspended to US citizens, regardless of the allegations.
While Feinstein and Garamendi’s bill is a crucial step forward in regaining our civil liberties, it doesn’t go far enough. The U.S. Constitution guarantees due process to ALL persons inside the United States. That’s why a campaign has been launched to advocate for not only the passage of the Due Process Guarantee Act, but also to amend it.
The amendment includes extending due process to all individuals in the United States, as well as legal residents and US citizens travelling overseas.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council has launched efforts to push Feinstein and Garamendi to include the edits in their bill. However, they need more Senators and Congressmen and women to show their support for the amendment. That’s why we’re currently reaching out to people around the United States to send letters, e-mails, and visit their Representative to ask them to co-sponsor the bill and its edits. We’ve also started a petition letter which people can sign and will automatically be sent to their Representatives.
For now though, the campaign has been slow to launch because not enough people are aware of the repercussions of the NDAA provisions. The effects of the bill could not impact us for months, or even until the next President. However, the mistake we always make is waiting for something to happen before we act to stop it. Let’s work on preventing it this time.