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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2012 > February 2012 > Obama and the indefinite detention and torture act

Obama and the indefinite detention and torture act

Monday 30 January 2012, by Kartiga Thiyagarajah

Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of the United States is amended to accommodate the Department of Defense’s budget for that fiscal year. The NDAA for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY2012) is particularly controversial because it infringes upon American citizens’ constitutional rights.

The NDAA FY2012 is set to take effect on March 3, and includes a provision that has the potential to allow American citizens to be arrested, detained indefinitely, and tortured if suspected of terrorist acts. This imprisonment may occur both domestically and in foreign prisons not run by the US.

Further, “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were previously made illegal by the 2005 Anti-Torture Bill can now be applied to both American and non-American detainees. Techniques include waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and various forms of psychological torture. Most disturbing, individuals’ arrest and interrogation can occur without charge and trial, and without being read their Miranda Rights.

On December 16, the US Senate voted in favour of the NDAA FY2012. Although President Obama warned that the White House would veto the new legislation, his administration ultimately approved the bill. According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the new legislation will not “challenge the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the American people.” For this reason, the administration did not push for a veto.

The bill has received severe backlash for its violation of basic human rights and the constitutional freedoms that Americans have grown accustomed to. Without being provided legal representation, anyone can now be suspected of terrorism and of having ties to terrorist organisations by the US government, and subsequently subjected to inhumane interrogation tactics.

Since its inception, the US Constitution has avoided military control of American lives. The NDAA FY2012, however, has made way for a new police state to reign over the US.

Republican Congressman and Presidential Candidate Ron Paul has vocalized his disdain for the new legislation. “This step where they can literally arrest American citizens and put them away without arrogant and bold and dangerous.” He likened the legislation’s enactment to “legalizing martial law.”

Obama’s decision to approve the NDAA FY2012 will not leave his political career unscathed. He has already faced accusations that he has disregarded many of his campaign promises. Now he stands charged with violating American civil rights. Not only have his opponents seized this opportunity to discredit his leadership of the country, but even many of his supporters now express concerns with his administration.

Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Anthony Romero, who once believed in Obama’s campaign promise of ‘change’, stated that, “He will forever be known as the president who allowed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law.”

Award-winning journalist and best-selling author Chris Hedges has sued the Obama administration for the provisions made in the NDAA FY2012. As an experienced foreign correspondent, Hedges has reported on countless terrorism-related events across the world. He claims that by broadly implicating those with “terrorist ties,” the new act may enable journalists who report terrorist related news to be labeled as supporters of enemy forces.

Hedges has also made public speculations regarding the motivations behind the legislation: “I suspect the real purpose of this bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state. I suspect it passed because corporations, seeing unrest in the streets; knowing that things are about to get much worse; worrying that the Occupy movement will expand, do not trust the police to protect them. They want to be able to call in the Army. And now they can.”

The future of Hedges’ lawsuit and the NDAA FY2012 remain uncertain. However, the new legislation has undoubtedly compromised the fundamental rights outlined by the US Constitution, and propelled American citizens into a state of constant insecurity.