NDAA: Indefinite Detention in America

In the (justified) kerfuffle about SOPA, the New Year’s Eve signing of the National Defense Authorization Act has gotten lost. Which is a crime.The United States has entered the new year with a government that can indefinitely detain American citizens. This is not an arrest, it’s a detention – in the name of terrorism and national defense, the U.S. government can nebulously hold its citizens, without trial, without due process. This is one of the reasons the colonies rebelled against King George.The Obama administration signed this bill on a holiday to minimize the attention paid to its more objectionable provisions – but the disregard for basic American founding principles deserves attention, and objection.

The Obama administration used a signing statement to announce they will not use those powers widely. How reassuring! But signing the bill makes these powers legal for any subsequent president to use. And from rendition to waterboarding, the government’s recent history on civil liberties is less than impressive.

While the indefinite detention of citizens has occurred for years, at least when it’s not legal, it’s easier to contest the detention of American citizens. The increased transparency of legality is not reassuring. The central problem is not the bill itself – it’s a system where neither Congress nor the executive branch can be trusted.

Healthy, loud and even angry dissent is the cornerstone of functioning democracy – and this law makes dissent a whole lot scarier.

Image credit: Awkward.Turtle on Flickr

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