Patricia J. Williams
Monterey County Weekly
December 29, 2011
You know these are interesting times when Glenn Beck, Dianne Feinstein, Rand Paul and the ACLU all agree on an issue. The issue in question is Subtitle D of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), headed to the president’s desk. These under-the-radar provisions, co-sponsored by Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, would allow for the indefinite military detention of any person alleged to be a member of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.” The provisions also apply to any person who supports or aids “belligerent” acts against the United States, whether the person is apprehended here or abroad.
For noncitizens, such detention would be mandatory. And while news agencies from Reuters to the Huffington Post have recently reported American citizens would be “exempt” from this requirement, the truth is more complicated. Military detention would be the default. At the discretion of the president, it could be waived in favor of giving the case to domestic law enforcement. Under this law, if the Defense Department thinks you’re a terrorist, there would be no presumption of innocence. Without such a waiver, again, even if you’re a citizen, you will never hear words like “alleged” or “suspected.” You will be an “unprivileged enemy belligerent,” with limited rights to appeal that status, no rights to due process, or to a jury, or to a speedy trial guided by the rules of evidence.