National Defense Authorization Act has been passed: The government has now taken our right to trial

During Hurricane Katrina, martial law (termed state of emergency) was declared in New Orleans while the city streets were cleared, power was restored, and looting stopped. Martial law power was instituted during World War II when Japanese-Americans were imprisoned to protect all of America from the possibility that ethnic loyalties would turn the Japanese violent.

Martial law is declared when the safety of the populace is threatened. It gives military control over an area and military power over you. You can be arrested and jailed indefinitely until the military decides to release you. It is one of the paradoxes of life. We fight war for peace. We have martial law take our freedom, to protect our freedom.

Earlier this month, the government claimed the power of martial law

Congress passed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) which has declared that American citizens who are suspected of supporting terrorism can lose their right to trial. This emergency measure is to protect us and is only temporary. Like in New Orleans, after power was restored and the roads cleared, martial law was lifted. Like after Japan surrendered to the US in World War II, the Japanese-Americans were released from prison.

But how long can the government hold current martial law power when our war isn’t against a group with a leader or against looters during a natural disaster? When do we win the war on terror?

It’s true, the military is not patrolling the streets, but why wasn’t the wording in the NDAA made more clear than “supports terrorism”? Why didn’t it specify that support is giving information, material, or physical help to a terrorist? Why didn’t the law err on the side of protecting our freedom while protecting us from terrorists? Why did they instead take absolute power over arresting Americans in the US?

A terrorist attack killed nearly 3000 Americans on 9-11.
In comparison, over 28,000 babies born in the US die before their first birthday

In reaction to the attack on 9-11, the government waged war in three countries, created a Department of Homeland Security, and has taken our right to trial.

I think we must ask why they deserve to take such a power to protect us in a war that has no end in sight.

Sources:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/02/president-obama-signed-the-national-defense-authorization-act-now-what/

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20081015/infant-mortality-us-ranks-29th

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A return to 1942

Japanese-American child being detained by US government in 1942, Smithsonian Institution, Copyright 2003

In 1942, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the US government collected over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, most of them American citizens, and detained them in internment camps for over three years because they were seen as threats to American security.

Today, a bill approved by Congress gives the President the power to remove American citizens’ right to trial and allows the military to detain them as an enemy soldier. (From the Act: “Detention without trial until the end of the hostilities” of anyone who “substantially supports such groups and/or associated forces.”)

Before this act, the President only had the power to detain those who “helped perpetrate the 9/11 attack or (b) harbored the perpetrators.”

We give great power to our government and we trust them to use it wisely. What do you think? Should the government have this power to jail you without trial if they find that you “substantially supported” terrorism without defining “substantially” or “supported” and not not allowing a lawyer to argue it for you? And if so, should the President claim these powers “until the end of hostilities” in a war against terrorism which has no clear end?

The government has the power to dispense justice under a system of law with clear codes of right and wrong.
If Obama signs this bill today, the government will be able to decide, without argument, when punishment is necessary and how to dole it out.

These are serious questions that I hope all of you would consider to ensure we can live a happy life.

References:

http://www.lawfareblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/NDAA-Conference-Report-Detainee-Section.pdf