Defense Bill Endangers Civil Liberties



Certain provisions in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act would make it more difficult to close the Gauntanamo Bay facility in Cuba. Department of Defense photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy.

This year, as every year, the United States Congress will be taking up a piece of legislation called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). However, this year, unlike past years, there is a provision in the NDAA that would explicitly empower the federal government to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects. In other words, the government would be able to hold people for months, or even years, without having to charge them or set a prison term. In practice, a person could be imprisoned without ever being found guilty – all that would be necessary would be an official suspicion of terrorism.

Another provision within the NDAA would require the rendering of terrorism suspects to military custody. If passed, this provision would be a troubling move toward a future in which the military functions not only to protect the United States from threats abroad, but also to enforce laws on American soil.Moreover, according to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the NDAA, as currently written, would make it more difficult to close the Guantanamo detention facility, which the organization describes as an “enduring symbol of torture and abuse.”Particularly disturbing is that the provision empowering the government to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists would, if passed, enshrine into law what our government has done in practice for years. Since our government shouldn’t have been doing this in the first place, making the practice permanent and providing official sanction is without a doubt a move in the wrong direction. Rather than shifting our country toward the acceptance of indefinite detention as the norm, our leaders should ensure that our civil liberties are protected even while securing our safety. The NDAA should be amended to remove this provision as well as the other troubling provisions concerning rendition and the Guantanamo facility.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons.

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Noah Baron

About Noah Baron

Noah Baron is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is from Princeton Junction, NJ, and a graduate of Columbia University.

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