A Missouri state lawmaker says it’s a scary time in America, especially if you’re not fully on board with Washington’s socialist-leaning agenda.
“It’s kind of a dangerous time for people in America who might wind up disagreeing with the government,” Missouri Rep. Paul Curtman said during a conference telephone call regarding organized opposition for the National Defense Authorization Act.
After serving in the Marines for 10 years, he said, he realizes that under the federal government’s definition of “potential terrorist,” he qualified by virtue of his status as a combat veteran and his conservative political views.
But it’s not just conservatives who are raising concerns about the legislation that includes provisions appearing to authorize the no-warrant detention of American citizens under certain conditions.
The law was signed by Barack Obama Dec. 31, 2011, and among its sections is 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,” according to an analysis of the federal law.
“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 analysis said.
Virginia’s lawmakers recently endorsed a plan that would prevent application of such provisions within its borders.
Also participating were tea party Republicans, liberal Democrats and libertarians, according to a report from the Tenth Amendment Center’s Mike Maharrey.
“Detention provisions without due process written into sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act served as a shot across America’s bow, raising concern to an amazingly high level, bringing groups and individuals across the political spectrum together to battle what they view as an unconstitutional and dangerous federal power grab,” his report said.
David Moon is with Demand Progress, and said, “We are a one million member progressive civil liberties organization, which means that our perspective is very much grounded in the left of center portion of the political spectrum, but this fight for due process, civil liberties and to extend habeas corpus in America has really brought us in close coalition with members all across the spectrum, from the tea party to the liberty community to progressive Democrats to Republicans.”
Larry Bragman represents a district in the California town of Fairfax, where officials simply unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the NDAA provisions.
“I think anybody who takes the oath of office in this country as an elected official has got to do what they can do to reverse, oppose and resist this bill, and that’s what we’re doing in Fairfax,” he said, according to Maharrey’s report.
Curtman said he’ll sponsor a provision prohibiting Missouri from cooperating with federal officials, and Rhode Island State Rep. Dan Gordon agreed there are problems.
“I had to read those sections of the bill numerous times to ensure that I wasn’t mistaken in what I was seeing. And what it came down to was – I was correct. There is no definition of the term belligerent and who gets to make that determination. That is a problem. It’s standard procedure to put those terms and definitions in there. It was not done in this case,” he said.
He’s working on legislation for his state.
“When I took the oath of office, I swore, as I did when I served in the Marine Corps, that I would support the Constitutions, in this case of Rhode Island and the United States. And before one single constituent of mine is snatched up in the dead of night, without due process, under our laws, they’ll have to pry those documents from my cold dead hands,” he said.
Kriss Worthington, council member for Berkeley, Calif., said in Maharrey’s report, “We who believe in liberty and justice for all, we really do believe in liberty and justice, and these drastic restrictions on liberty are not only legally unconstitutional, but they are morally reprehensible and against the spirit and the nature of what the United States of America is supposed to be about.”
The Tenth Amendment Center said lawmakers in 11 states now are working on some form of limits on the federal government at this point. Ten local governments already have adopted resolutions.
Rhode Island Liberty Coalition director Blake Filippi represented the Tenth Amendment Center on the call. He spelled out the urgency involved.
“In the spirit of the heroic abolitionists in states like Wisconsin, Maine, and many others – today, we call upon states across the nation to pass the Liberty Preservation Act – to reject the so-called ‘indefinite detention’ powers of the NDAA,” he said.
“We hope to expand this effort … and blanket the entire country with a defense of liberty until ‘indefinite detention’ is thrown to the dustbin of history,” he said.
When Virginia was considering its legislation, Floyd Mori, chief of the Japanese American Citizens League, sent a letter.
“As many of you know, during World War II the Japanese American community was targeted as ‘suspected enemy aliens’ and by authority of Presidential Executive Order 9066, over 110,000 people were rounded up and put into concentration camps at 10 desolate locations under the notion that they could be suspect,” he told the lawmakers in Virginia.
“This period of indefinite detention lasted until the war ended, and there was no due process as guaranteed by the Constitution. A congressional commission later, through a number of public hearings, found that this was an unjustified act of the government due to war hysteria, racism, and poor government leadership at the time. The government was ordered by an act of Congress to apologize and provide redress in order to learn a lesson that this should never again happen. If there were more who stood up to this injustice, much heartache and economic loss could have been avoided and this apology would not have been needed,” he said.
“Today we face a similar situation. The so-called ‘War on Terror’ has led to the same kind of hysteria and racist actions by government. I can also say that we have lacked the political leadership to identify that this kind of forced indefinite detention is a repeat of what happened during WWII,” he said.
“The state of Virginia has the opportunity to stand up to an unjust application of congressional authority. The American people need somebody to stand up against this injustice. HB 1160 is a tool that does just that; it stands up for the American people by respecting the basic principles of the Constitution.”
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.