National Defense Authorization Act

In other whiffs of farce, there’s this little controversy about the National Defense Authorization Act.  It’s currently under consideration by the Senate, and it may or may not allow (or even require) U.S. citizens to be detained by the U.S. military without trial for any length of time if perceived as a threat to national security.  Originally the bill, which was passed 93-7 by the Senate, was even more of a threat to civil liberties.  Its language contradicted itself by basically saying that, according to the Lawfare blog, “citizens are not subject to detention solely to the extent forbidden by the Constitution.”  Meaning (perhaps) that U.S. citizens are subject to anything unprotected.

The controversy is elucidated helpfully by the Lawfare post, which explains that, after sufficient public outcry over the little blooper in the bill’s original language, the bill has been changed so that one section specifically exempts U.S. citizens from the detention threat.  However, another section says that any person at all is subject to being detained.  So while there is a precedent excluding U.S. citizens from this kind of detention, and the bill seems to play on that assumption that citizens would be “protected” by this uncertain precedent, it’s conceivable either section could conveniently be used to overrule the other one.  So, the bill probably protects U.S. citizens from detention without trial by their own military…but we can’t be sure.


About Travis Bird

New Orleans musician and writer
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