Monday, September 24, 2012

The NDAA and You...

This is a political post. 

My new conservative FB friend has actually proved useful, but I still miss my old conservative buddy. I miss him because he would actually defend his points, as opposed to this person who has a tendency to just post those photos with messages computer worked in that are supposed to prove their point. That and she likes to reiterate that Obama is just evil for some reason. Her rationale is never quite clear. I believe she is a basically a single issue voter - against abortion -  and is simply along for the ride.

The other day she posted a JFK quote indicating that at one point the Democrats were in favor of lowering taxes to spur economic growth. A quick Google check shows that when JFK made the statement, the top tier income tax in this country was over NINETY percent. So yes, it was a great idea at the time, but decisions aren't made in a vacuum, and at this point taxes are on the other side of fifty. In fact they're on the low side of twenty for the referenced income earners. So maybe a new plan? 

Her latest picture decries the injustice of the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization act. It has been the centerpiece of outrage for freedom loving Americans because it allegedly contains something that gives the President the right to detain US citizens indefinitely. I use the term allegedly because the item they seem to have issue with - Section 1021(b) - doesn't say what they claim it says. Now, the NDAA may give the government indefinite detainment rights somewhere, the whole thing is 565 pages of fairly dense print. But it's not where the outrage is directed. Let me explain.

You can get a PDF of the whole thing here. The section is question is on page 265 - Subtitle D - Counterterrorism.

The section covers specifically detainment for "covered persons" under the law of war, or for the lay person - who we can consider "prisoners of war" for this war on terrorism. It defines those persons in part (b) as a persons involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks, and persons who are part of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or those who associate with them or give them aid. That's it, that's all it covers.

Now, the disagreements stem from the language used, because it doesn't define what giving aid to those parties listed actually means. Some reporters have been afraid to speak to contacts in the Middle East for fear association would be within the scope of aid. Others whose peaceful organizations have been lumped into the same watch list type group as Al-Qaeda fear the same possible vague violations. So maybe they have a point. But wait...did they read the rest of that same act?

Now, it is this last part that makes me think that the people who argued about it in Congress don't know what's in it, that these people who went to court to get it struck down to protect Americans haven't completely read it, and that most of the people who are mad are just  upset because somebody told them to be upset - but they haven't bothered to do the homework for themselves.  

If you've looked it up, let me call your attention to the part just down 16 lines in part (e) of Section 1021.  If you haven't got your own copy, here is the text of 1021(e):

AUTHORITIES.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.

Nothing in this section, meaning the entirety of Section 1021, can affect the laws on the books with regard to US citizens and what happens if you break the law. So what happens to you if you are arrested (your constitutional right to a Writ of Habeas Corpus) is not affected. Note, the language does not say it has to be a Supreme court tried and tested law, nor create any other qualifications, but merely be an existing law. And in here we can fill in the Constitution if you like. Or state law. Or any law that exists now that says you cannot be held indefinitely. 

The practical upshot is that your right to a speedy trial, which may vary depending on what part of the country you were arrested in, is not affected. You still have all the same legal rights if you were to get arrested for aiding Al-Qaeda that you would get as if you'd got caught say... robbing a 7-11. The President can't send you to Guantanamo because you robbed a 7-11, can he? Then he can't send you to Guantanamo for being a US citizen who aids Al-Qaeda. 

So if this whole section - Section 1021 - can't affect existing laws pertaining to US citizens, which don't allow indefinite detention, then how can it grant the President the power to detain US citizens indefinitely? Maybe citizens of elsewhere would have an issue, but not US citizens.

Or maybe I'm reading it wrong?

No comments: