Bipartisan authoritarianism on full display

It is quite impressive how the allegedly gridlocked, fiercely partisan, do-nothing Congress that supposedly seeks to block president Obama’s every move, can get together quietly with him to agree on sweeping powers that endanger our constitutional protections against arbitrary and indefinite arrest and detention by the government.

At the end of last week, the Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 by comfortable majorities (350 -65 in the House and 84-15 in the Senate). As the ACLU says:

In December 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 NDAA, codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.

Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again. The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA. In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.

Harold W. Pease clarifies the implications of this dangerous legislation that went unnoticed during the holiday season.

Most maintained the image that the annual act merely funded the military for another year, as has been the case previously. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Left in place was the extremely controversial 2012 provision authorizing the military, under presidential authority, to arrest, kidnap and detain without trial, and hold indefinitely, American citizens thought to “represent an enduring security threat to the United States.” Simply stated, it defied habeas corpus (your constitutional right not to disappear at the hand of government), the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (preventing the military from having a law enforcement function in the United States) and essentially gutted large portions of the Bill of Rights, especially amendments 4, 5 and 6 with secondary damage to 1, 2 and possibly 8. It is the single most dangerous law passed by Congress in U.S. history.

Pease quotes Senator Ted Cruz who said in voting against the bill:

“Today I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act. I am deeply concerned that Congress still has not prohibited President Obama’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process. The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any president, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial.”

Of course, apologists for president Obama and the authoritarian state will now come out of the woodwork, saying that our overlords are benign and we must give them every power so that they can protect us from the monsters lurking under our beds and that they will arrest only bad people and besides Obama is a good man with such a nice family and so could not possibly do anything bad. The fact that Senator Cruz voted against the bill will be sufficient for those with this kind of tribal mindset to decide that the Act must be a good thing.

Cartoonist Ted Rall weighs in with other aspects of the Act.


  1. corwyn says

    they will arrest only bad people and besides Obama is a good man with such a nice family and so could not possibly do anything bad.

    So, he is planning on being President for life then?

  2. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Ted Cruz
    Wait. He’s actually on the right side of an issue for once? Is the world ending? …!?

    Kudos to Ted Cruz.

  3. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Thanks for blogging about this. After reviewing the list of who voted for and against

    I want to say I am deeply disappointed in Senator Franken.


    Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
    Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)

    Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

    Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
    Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
    Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
    John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
    Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
    Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
    Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
    Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)
    Mike Lee (R-Utah)
    James Risch (R-Idaho)
    Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
    Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

  4. kraut says

    To have have to invoke “godwin” here?

    At least, for the Nazis to do the same it took the Recistagsbrand of 1933.

    Hindenburg unterzeichnet die eilig während der Nacht verfasste „Verordnung zum Schutz von Volk und Staat“. Nun kann jeder Bürger ohne konkreten Vorwurf unbegrenzt in „Schutzhaft“ genommen werden. Sämtliche anderen Bürgerrechte werden faktisch außer Kraft gesetzt, und für Hochverrat wird die Todesstrafe eingeführt. Diese sogenannte „Reichstagsbrandverordnung“ macht Deutschland zum totalitären Staat.

    the gist of it: Now any citizen can be taken into “protective custody”, all civil rights are eliminated and for treason the death penalty is established
    What is next in the “democratic US of A?

  5. says

    What is next in the “democratic US of A?

    In fairness to the idea of democracy, the US has never been a democracy. “Representative democracy” is an oxymoron. The US is a fake democracy (methinks it doth protest too much) akin to Zurich under the rule of the “Little Committee” – collect the votes but the ruling clique just does whatever the fuck it wants to, anyway.

  6. TxSkeptic says

    Once again proving that Obama in particular, and democrats in general are totally incompetent at this game of politics. Ok, so there is broad consensus in congress to pass this bill, and funding for the war machine in particular is one of the GOPs greatest pleasures – so why was its passing not massively blocked by Dems in order to extract concessions on some other issue important to the left? Oh, how about, we’ll pass the NDAA when it gets an amendment reversing the Hyde amendment, or re-instating the whole of the old Glass-Stegal?

    ” the ruling clique just does whatever the fuck it wants to, anyway.” — Indeed!

  7. Nick Gotts says

    Well, from a non-American perspective, the American elite, and many ordinary Americans, have long considered that international law doesn’t apply to the Land of the Free, whatever treaties the U.S. Senate may have ratified – so as far as kidnapping non-Americans is concerned, this just formalises what has long been the case. (Yes, I am aware that other states commit similar heinous acts without awarding themselves the legal right to do so.) Somehow, I doubt whether Ted Cruz would have had any objection if Americans had been exempted from this liability to kidnap and indefinite detention incommunicado, and without charge or trial. I wonder what levels of screaming outrage would be reached if, say, Russia or China were to make a similar declaration of their “right” to kidnap Americans anywhere in the world.

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