A legislative plan that would protect Virginia residents from the warrantless detention many critics have charged is contained in a federal budget plan has been adopted by the legislature and forwarded to the governor.
“By overwhelming votes (37-1 and 96-4), members of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly now have expressed themselves in their unmistakable understanding of the inviolate protections of our civil rights under the constitutions of the United States and Virginia,” said state Delegate Bob Marshall, the sponsor of the bill.
“I urge Gov. [Bob] McDonnell to acknowledge this outpouring of grassroots and legislation support of HB 1160, and I urge him to add his signature to this vital protection of our sacred liberties as citizens of Virginia and the nation,” he said.
The target of the state plan is the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which was signed by Obama Dec. 31. 2011.
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.
The state law specifically addresses itself to the goal of preventing “any agency, political subdivision, employee, or member of the military of Virginia from assisting an agency of the armed forces of the United States in the conduct of the investigation, prosecution, or detention of a United States citizen in violation of the United States Constitution, Constitution of Virginia, or any Virginia law or regulation.”
“The writ of Habeas Corpus in our Constitution (Article 1, Section 9) is what separates America from dictatorships around the world. Giving anyone the unfettered power to ‘detain’ American citizens without trial, counsel, specific charges, or a public record of such proceedings is unwise, imprudent and at fundamental odds with the assumptions of our government and legal traditions,” Marshall explained.
“In refusing to cooperate with NDAA, the Virginia General Assembly is performing its historic role as explained by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 26 as ‘not only vigilant but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens, against encroachments from the federal government [who] will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rules and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people and not only to be the VOICE but, if necessary, the ARM of their discontent,’” he said.
The bill advanced after a large contingent of Japanese-Americans weighed in on the controversial plan, which critics say allows the president to detain American citizens without charges or court hearings.
Floyd Mori, chief of the Japanese American Citizens League, sent a letter to legislators.
“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.”
The Tenth Amendment Center, which is monitoring developments on the issue, reported, “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?”
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.