When President Obama promised in his signing statement not to deploy NDAA maliciously, he was really distracting us from the real issue at stake in the passage of that bill. NDAA (click the link for the PDF; the HTML version is missing the crucial Sec. 1021) cemented the rollback of civil liberties, a rollback that had been noted prominently in the USA PATRIOT ACT, and continued through numerous bills since 2001. As we know, NDAA gives POTUS the authority to order the US Military to detain indefinitely anyone suspected of terrorism on US Soil or on international grounds.
Here is the wording that pertains to whom is liable to indefinite detention. Besides those who took part in the attacks of September 11, 2011, Section 1021 also includesA person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or 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 has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
In fact, according to Sections 1021 and 1022, the US Military is “required” to detain anyone suspected of “assisting” Al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups to be held indefinitely by the US Armed Forces. Section 1022 also enables POTUS the option to extend that provision to US citizens, and it promises to detain anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. or its coalition allies in aid of such enemy forces, under the law of war, “without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF].”
What is especially alarming in NDAA, besides the infinite expansion of authority awarded (and demanded by the POTUS in order to sign it), is the ambiguous wording of Section 1021. Anyone who “aids” enemy forces or commits a “belligerent act.” Belligerence, in this day, can be interpreted to mean getting pissy or making bad jokes with TSA officials at US airports. It can also mean being “angry,” as the White House has already warned Occupy protestors. And, as we know, in this age of unabashed warrantless surveillance of folks’ online surfing habits, it can mean listening to the sermons of fundamentalist preachers (always Muslim, of course), or writing pointed critical comments about POTUS or the War on Terror or the US Banks, or the 1%, or the NYPD, or…
While NDAA doesn’t break any new ground in the violation of the civil liberties of US citizens, it does open up the slippery slope to conflate political protest or civil disobedience and a “threat” to the safety of politicians. This past Monday, the House voted to approve, 388-3, a bill that cements that slippery slope. HR-347 makes it illegal for anyone to be in a Federal building, or be near a person who is protected by the Secrete Service, without permission to be there. Yup. Seriously.
Here’s an excerpt:‘‘§ 1752. Restricted building or grounds 8 ‘‘(a) Whoever— 9 ‘‘(1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so; ‘‘(2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions; ‘‘(3) knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or ‘‘(4) knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds; or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b). ‘(b) The punishment for a violation of subsection (a) is—‘‘(1) a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 10 years
Any bells going off? The bill, less than 3 pages, packs a serious punch to the 1st Amendment. If you are a citizen, non-citizen, foreign national–doesn’t matter–and you want to express your dissent, protest, disagreement of current policies and practicies in proximity of some of the powers who created them, whether in a Federal Building, in front of the White House, or in front of Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney–you are now engaging in an illegal act.
The amount of damage that it can potentially do to the capacity to express dissent, to protest, to challenge political authority is enormous: Good-by Occupy. Good-bye political demonstrations near US politicos. Good-by, dissent of POTUS’ War on (Terror? WMD’s? Iraqi massacres? Drones? Iran? I’m not sure anymore). This bill is a response by the political powers that be to the increasing unrest, anger, and outrage that their plutocratic, kleptocratic and authoritarian actions are inducing: bank theft and embezzlement, violence by a police state, murder of US and foreign nationals, invasion and murders of civilians under the auspices of “democracy,” and many other heinous actions.
This bill, which still has to be passed by the Senate before it can become law, is the logical extension of the series of bills that expand the political aura and untouchable authority of our politicos and the ruling elite which is increasingly identical. Note the political success of billionaires Mayor Michael Bloomberg (defending the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims outside his jurisdiction, including in CT, PA, NJ, or Syria, Iran, Lebanon and elsewhere), former NJ Jon Corzine (former head of MF Global, which is missing substantial sums that can’t be accounted for), Mitt Romney, etc.
Don’t be fooled by the “kinder, gentler” message delivered by Obama in the NDAA signing statement. That was just the foil. The best of political silencing is yet to come.