Virginia Legislature Votes to Oppose Indefinite Detention of Americans without Trial

Thursday, March 01, 2012
Lawmakers in Virginia have put aside their partisan differences about health care, contraception and other issues to officially oppose a controversial law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama that allows the federal government to detain Americans without trial for alleged terrorism-related activities.
 
By votes of 39-1 in the state Senate and 96-4 in the House of Delegates, the legislature approved a bill “to nullify” provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012.
 
The Virginia legislation is largely symbolic, as it does not prevent federal agents from arresting terrorism suspects. But the legislative action is part “of a larger NDAA nullification campaign around the country.”
 
Seven other legislatures are also considering anti-NDAA bills. In addition, several local governments have passed resolutions that either denouncement the federal act or require noncompliance with it.
 
As previously reported by AllGov:
 
Obama’s supporters, including Republicans who normally oppose almost everything he does, have tried to defend the bill by saying that it doesn’t really go as far as its critics claim. However, the wording of the act, although carefully phrased, is nonetheless clear.
 
For example, Obama apologists say that it does not codify indefinite detention. But section 1021 (c-1) allows “Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities.” A U.S. president can take the position that he is engaged in a war without end. In fact, that is exactly what Presidents Bush and Obama have done. In addition, section (b-2) states that the law applies not just to members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but to any person who has “substantially supported” “associated forces.” Because these terms are not defined, Obama would appear to be free to interpret them as he chooses…as would be any future president.
 
Supporters of the president—and the members of Congress of both parties who passed the bill—dismiss the contention that American citizens can be detained indefinitely. Again the wording is clever, but disturbing. Section 1022 (b-1) states that, in regard to U.S. citizens “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” The key word here is “requirement.” In other words, the president still has the option to place Americans in indefinite military detention.
 
Some Americans may say that terrorism suspects should be stopped using any means necessary, and that if a few innocent people are imprisoned without trial by mistake, it’s unfortunate, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. However, there is now nothing to stop the current president of the United States, or the next one or the one after that, from taking advantage of the wording of the law and the fear of enemies to imprison whomever he chooses.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Battle Against NDAA Kidnapping Provisions Cross Party Lines (by Mike Maharrey, Tenth Amendment Center)
Obama Signs into Law Indefinite Detention of Americans without Trial (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Senate Bill Allows Indefinite Imprisonment of Americans without Trial (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

  

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