NDAA bill as ludicrous as it sounds

By Gabrielle Rosas

My 18-year-old brother, bless him, is a believer in conspiracy theories. Weekly, he sends me videos via Facebook meant to enlighten me in the dark ways of world powers. He says the Illuminati is plotting world domination, celebrities are brainwashed by the government and the signs are everywhere but I just don’t see them.

I humor him. I watch the videos and engage him in conversation. In the end, I take each one with several grains of salt. So when he told me about a new bill that was passed allowing the detention of American citizens without trial, I shrugged it off. The mere idea seemed ludicrous. I tried to argue that if the government were to commit such an act, it would be done secretly. Then I looked it up.

To my horror, my brother was telling the truth. President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 into law on Dec. 31, 2011. The act is passed every year to allocate funds for the U.S. Department of Defense and designate how those funds will be used.

But the language added to the bill this year has spurred considerable debate. Two sections in particular have raised concerns among civil liberties groups. Sections 1021 and 1031 authorize the president to use military force against suspected terrorists on U.S. soil.

After reading these sections of the bill, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is unconstitutional. Although the law does not explicitly include U.S. citizens in its definition of “covered persons,” or suspects, it does not exclude them either. In fact, the bill leaves the option open for the president to detain whomever he wishes.

Section 1031, Subsection B of the bill states, “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.”

It would seem that this means the military can’t detain U.S. citizens at all. But the law is ambiguous. It could just as easily mean that although the military is not required to hold U.S. citizens, it could have the option. In the wrong hands, this law could be disastrous.

At the very least, American citizens should be perturbed. Obama claimed that though he agreed with most of the bill, he was wary of some provisions, particularly sections 1031 and 1021. If that is Obama’s excuse, then sadly he has less backbone than I thought. As president, he could have vetoed the bill and called for amendments. If those two sections had been taken out, this issue could never have arisen.

The bill directly violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of due process and a fair trial. The lack of opposition in the House is disturbing. Though Obama claims he will not exercise the rights given in the bill during his term, it could lead to future NDAA bills having the same provisions. It’s up to the American people to oppose the bill outright. But effective opposition is rare to find these days. I see a lot of people complaining on Facebook, but I haven’t heard one person admit to calling his or her senator.

I understand: Facebook is the new, cool way to protest, and it has proven to be an efficient method of grassroots organization. But the fact remains that our elected officials have the most clout when a bill is up for vote.

The post-9/11 era has been one of fear that has bred asinine policies and procedures meant to mold the American psyche. After more than a decade of this, Obama has finally killed Osama bin Laden and withdrawn most U.S. troops from the Middle East. Yet fear of terrorism or another attack on home ground is still ruling our lives. Unfortunately, some wounds will never heal.

Doom and gloom aside, the future isn’t as bleak as it seems. Recent widespread opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act has been fruitful. Several of the bill’s Republican co-sponsors dropped support of the pending legislation and the bill is now back on the drawing board.

The NDAA may have the potential to withhold fair trial but it says nothing about free speech. Citizens’ concerns don’t always fall on deaf ears.