You don't have to live alone in the woods, reading issues of Guns and Ammo
and co-writing your manifesto with beard lice, to be terrified about the state of basic freedoms in America today. Given the counterterrorism provisions in the fairly recent National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), we currently live in a country where the government can pick up American citizens and detain them indefinitely without access to a lawyer or even a criminal trial. That means locked up forever without even the basic protections we afford to rapists and murderers.
"That can't be right," you say. "Such a power would be completely unconstitutional!"
And you're right. Even President Obama
said he had "serious reservations with certain provisions [of the bill] that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists." And then he signed it.
"I'll sign my name, but I'm not gonna draw a smiley face in the O like usual."
But the point is not just to beat up on the president. After all, Governor Romney did that for 90 minutes in last Wednesday's debate without a single mention of these NDAA provisions. That's because the NDAA will persist under a Romney administration as well. That's right: Regardless of who wins in November, your lingering notions of living in a country that is free and democratic can best be described as "quaint" and "wrong."
So considering that this law alters our concept of what it even means to live in a democracy, why is no one talking about it? Why does no one seem to care? There are three major reasons, but first, let's talk about what the NDAA is.
What Is the NDAA?
The primary role of the NDAA is to provide for the Defense Department's budget, which this year amounts to a cozy $662 billion. However, the NDAA also contains counterterrorism provisions in sections 1021 and 1022 that allow the federal government to imprison any person "who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners" until "the end of the hostilities."
Did that clear it up for you? No? See, that's part of the problem. The NDAA is so poorly defined that it becomes a bit of an inkblot test for its possible effect. But the thing is, when it comes to basic, constitutionally protected, fundamental freedoms, we typically don't take an "Ahh, y'know what I mean" approach. What we do know is, pursuant to the NDAA, American citizens on American soil can be jailed indefinitely without the right to legal counsel if suspected of being a terrorist. And as Senator Rand Paul has pointed out, there are already all sorts of things on the books that can make you a suspect, such as missing fingers or having more than a week's worth of food in your house
So, here we are in a tight election, and none of the candidates or pundits are talking about the one issue that's at the heart of the role of government and our rights as citizens. Why?