A key vote is coming up as early as tomorrow for Virginia lawmakers to decide whether they will take a stand on controversial language in federal legislation that appears to allow the federal government to detain U.S. citizens.
The proposal gained almost unanimous support in the state House, but it escaped death in the state Senate today on a single vote – that of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
Delegate Bob Marshall issued a statement that citizens need to be speaking up about the controversial issue of empowering the U.S. military “to take a citizen off the nation’s streets, incarcerate him without charges, deprive him of the right to a lawyer, and hold him for an unlimited amount of time.”
“That is the way things may be done in some other countries, but not here,” said Marshall, a sponsor of the legislation. “This bill provides that we, here in Virginia, will not assist the federal government in enforcing this law.”
He noted, “Even President Obama had questions about the bill, when he promised the American people that he would not use the unrestrained powers it granted him – but why should we trust any president with such powers?”
Marshall cited the U.S. history of detaining innocent civilians, noting that during World War II “tens of thousands of loyal Japanese Americans” were incarcerated “in the name of national security.”
“There are moments in our history when our liberties hang in the balance. This is one of those moments,” he said. “I urge the Senate when it votes tomorrow to join the overwhelming vote in the House to pass this bill, to lead the way in the nation to ensure that Virginia will not cooperate when the federal government strays off the reservation with laws that take away the civil liberties of our citizens.”
Marshall was referring to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which was signed by Obama Dec. 31. 2011.
Among its hundreds of pages is section 1021, “which purports to authorize the president of the United States to use the armed forces of the United States to detain American citizens who the president suspects are or have been substantial supports of al-Qaida, the Taliban, or associated forces, and to hold such citizens indefinitely.”
“In short, Section 1021 authorizes the president to dispose of American citizens
suspected of supporting ‘terrorism’ according to the laws of war, as if the United States soil was a battlefield and her citizens enemy combatants, not entitled to the protections of the Bill of Rights, including the rights to trial by jury, representation by counsel, confrontation of witnesses, and due process of law administered by impartial judges,” the statement said.
It explained that when Obama signed the bill, he “assured the American people that he would never exercise the powers granted him under Section 1021. But both his administration and that of former president George W. Bush have asserted that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists already allows the president to indefinitely detain persons without charge, including United States citizens captured in the United States.”
WND just reported on a plan being developed by a bipartisan team to work with state and local governments to make certain such dramatic interpretations of the citizen detention plan are not enforced.
Outside opinions on exactly what the law allows vary widely.
Commentator Chuck Baldwin, who himself has been the target of smears by the Department of Homeland Security-related apparatus, explained the law, “for all intents and purposes, completely nullifies a good portion of the Bill of Rights, turns the United States into a war zone, and places U.S. citizens under military rule.”
“When signing the NDAA into law, Obama issued a signing statement that in essence said, ‘I have the power to detain Americans … but I won’t,” Baldwin wrote.
Baldwin was vilified by an anti-terror campaign in Missouri several years ago when authorities there described suspicious characters as those who might have supported him or other third-party candidates during a presidential election.
A state agency, and later the Department of Homeland Security, offered warnings that returning veterans, those who oppose abortion and others who advocate conservative issues could pose a danger to the nation.
Others have pooh-poohed the concerns about the apprehension of Americans. Wayne Bowen, a professor at Southeast Missouri State University not far from where state officials had issued that warning about Baldwin, said, “The NDAA not only does not empower the U.S. military to detain American citizens indefinitely, it specifically prohibits this.
“The NDAA confirms as U.S. law the practice that foreign terrorists … will be held indefinitely by the U.S. military. Indeed, this is a far more generous policy than allowed under international law,” he wrote.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee noted that during the first few weeks of 2012, at least six jurisdictions have enacted local resolutions opposing the military detention provisions of the NDAA.
Among the states that have begun addressing the issue, along with Virginia, are Arizona, Rhode Island, Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington.
Local jurisdictions include Macomb, N.Y.; Fairfax, Calif.; New Shoreham, R.I.; and several locations in Colorado.