The fact that we’re ringing in the new year with visions of a crippled internet, increasing government surveillance and military policing all point to an unpromising start for 2012. This is the way you start a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, so why is it our reality?
The technology that fed the Arab Spring revolts could be hamstrung in the country of its origin by the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and now the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been signed into law with barely more than a whisper of protest, much of it word of mouth. It has made a few appearances on television and in the news and then was promptly forgotten.
Opponents of the NDAA say that the bill will allow the government to detain United States citizens and residents indefinitely and without trial, even possibly sending them to places like Guantanamo Bay.
Farewell, right to due process; I knew ye well, Miranda Rights – something like this just does not seem possible.
For that reason, I spent the better part of the weekend reading official copies of the NDAA that are posted on government websites, trying to make sense of it all.
“Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the
United States.” That should be the end of it, right?
Mostly, the concern lies with how much of the act is open to the interpretation of the executive branch.
President Obama has already released an official statement explaining why he signed the bill and that his administration “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”
That doesn’t guarantee that a future administration will not use this provision.
Even if no American citizens are arrested and held without trial, the very existence of this law turns the military into a policing force.
Suppose a conservative wins the 2012 election, or anyone new comes in in 2016 – how will the interpretation of this law change?
If this section survives, it will probably be changed and added to, depending on whatever the government decides is threatening.
Maybe the paranoia creeping into my mind over the NDAA is born of too many television shows about the government running amok while trying to fight a terrorist threat.
Maybe Congress didn’t mean anything by writing it, and the President didn’t mean anything by signing it.
The longer we accept “Big Brother watching us” is just the way it is, the more normalized the situation becomes and the easier it is to ask for a little more power, when what they have isn’t enough. Rather than asking for more of something that isn’t working, maybe it’s time to start looking for something different instead.