NDAA is Back: House Reaffirms Indefinite Detention

May 18, 2012

stop NDAA and indefinite detentionYup, it’s that time of the year again: the sun is shining, birds are singing, school’s almost out, and elected officials are trying to take our human rights away. It’s NDAA time.

What does that mean? You have two options:

1) If you’re an NDAA junkie, and already know that the Smith/Amash effort to improve the NDAA just lost in the House this morning, then sign this action calling for repeal of Sections 1021 & 1022.

2) If you have no idea what I’m talking about then keep reading for an NDAA 101.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an important piece of legislation passed every year to authorize defense expenditures. In and of itself, it’s not a big deal. But it often gets hijacked for other purposes (see Wikipedia entry for Pork barrel) and sometimes for really bad ones–and thus our story begins.

Last year a bipartisan group led by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) passed amendments to the 2012 NDAA that dealt with how the government detains suspected terrorists. The detention provisions, specifically Sections 1021 and 1022–signed in to law with the rest of the NDAA by President Obama on New Year’s eve while most of us were in Times Square–further entrenched indefinite detention, discrimination based on citizenship, and the paradigm of global unending war in US law.

The 2012 NDAA was a big setback for human rights, because every person has the right to due process, to a speedy and fair trial, and to be free from discrimination and abuse.

But there was an upside to the 2012 NDAA: it sparked a rightful outcry across the political spectrum. That’s worth repeating: across the political spectrum, as in from left to right. The Tea Party and Occupy even held joint demonstrations! Together!

While the intermingling of  tie-dye shirts with red, white and blue Bald Eagle sweaters was a bit jarring, it has been great to see people come together to defend shared values–in this case, protecting civil liberties from abuse of power by the state.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s been a lot of disagreement over what the NDAA detention provisions actually do. You can read them yourself (see Sections 1021 and 1022) and here are links to several interpretations about what the NDAA detention provisions mean:

(A) Joe the Plumber and I could be locked up forever and that’s all I care about

(B) Amnesty’s NYC office could be be hit with a drone strike

(C) stop worrying about it, we’re keeping you safe

(D) Hawai’i and Virginia aren’t going to play this game

(E) Section 1021 is unconstitutional

(F) They’re bad and we need to fix them–along with a broader system of badness tied to that other four-letter symbol of human rights violations, the AUMF

Personally, I’m going with (F), but I like (D) and (E), sympathize with (A), don’t like (B) and am very sure (C) is wrong. I know that’s complicated, but the solution to the NDAA detention provisions is simple: repeal Sections 1021 and 1022.

Will Congress listen and fix the NDAA? So far, the answer is no. The House voted today on amendments to the 2013 NDAA, but the well-intentioned efforts that would have repealed or substantially amended Sections 1021 and 1022 were defeated. (Thank you Representatives Amash (R-MI), Nadler (D-NY), Paul (R-TX), Smith (D-WA) and many others for your efforts.)

But the 2013 NDAA process is far from over, now it moves to the Senate. The detention provisions could be repealed, stay the same–or become even more problematic: last year Senator Ayotte (R-NH) tried to pass an amendment—known as the “torture amendment”–that would have let the CIA chose its own interrogation tactics, in secret. Luckily it failed due to public pressure from people like you. But it underscores that we have to be vigilant not only in fixing the NDAA but in making sure it doesn’t get worse.

Take action to let your elected officials know where you stand on the NDAA.

What’s your interpretation of the NDAA? Use the comments or Tweet #NDAA @ZekeJohnsonAi