National Defense Authorization Act lays foundation for targeting political dissenters, activism

By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Asst. Editor- | Last updated: Jan 10, 2012 - 12:50:14 PM

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Iraq war veteran Sgt. Shamar Thomas leads a demonstration in New York’s Grand Central Station, Jan. 3. About a hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters rallied in New York City’s Grand Central Station to call attention to a law signed by President Barack Obama that they say represses civil liberties. Mr. Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law on New Year’s Eve. Civil rights groups have criticized provisions in the bill that they say seem to grant the military extraordinary powers to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

( - On January 22, 2009, newly inaugurated President Barack H. Obama proudly issued his first three executive orders, one of them, a directive requiring the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison facility to be closed within one year.
Nearly three years later, Guantanamo Bay remains open with prisoners being held without trial, and a new law enacted with the stroke of his pen could mean more American citizens will be joining them soon.
President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the Press in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo: MGN Online
With people partying worldwide in na├»ve bliss on New Year’s Eve, December 31, Pres. Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act giving the military extraordinary sweeping powers to detain United States citizens indefinitely without trial. The law has been widely condemned by civil libertarians, activists, and American citizens who see this as further evidence of the erosion human rights, which began post 9/11 under then-President George W. Bush.
“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” said Pres. Obama in a statement.
Ironically, when Pres. Obama issued the order to close Guantanamo Bay in 2009, he said he desired to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.” His signing the NDAA into law does exactly the opposite, and critics believe America has witnessed one of the most tragic reversals of civil liberties in its history.
“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.”
During a Jan. 9 in studio interview with radio host Cliff Kelley of WVON 1690AM in Chicago, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered his thoughts on the NDAA in response to a question posed by a caller.
“That act signed into law by our president is an act that is destined to stop those of us who speak truth to power,” said Min. Farrakhan. “It’s aimed primarily at a man that they know they have not been able to control. So I warn the government—you can do what you want with me—but Farrakhan is going to be found being faithful to the truth that will free the minds of our people, and whatever the consequences, I warn you, when you come after me, God will come surely after you,” he added.
Despite the White House spin, there is no way around it, this law curtails freedoms, has disappointed his supporters, and opens the door further for abuse.
The xenophobic and islamophobic rhetoric spewed from the mouths of several leading Republican candidates for president has raised the possibility that while Pres. Obama claims he will not use the law to indefinitely detain American citizens, future presidents could use the act he signed into law, to do exactly that.
Critics cite this as a key concern because according to political analysts, Pres. Obama’s reelection in 2012 is not guaranteed.
Polling data from Real Clear Politics shows 70 percent of the American people think the country is on the wrong track. American displeasure with the economy could cause a majority of voters to vote for a change in direction. Additionally, many liberal voters who supported Mr. Obama as the candidate for “change” in 2008 have been disappointed as he has hawkishly increased America’s global militarism after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.
(Top) The sign for Camp 4, the medium security facility within Camp Delta at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Photo: MGN Online (bottom) Protestors in black hoods and orange jumpsuits in front of “The Contemplation of Justice” statue at the International Day To Shut Down Guantanamo Bay in Washington, D.C. January 11, 2007. Photo: takomabibelot/
Attorney Abdul Arif Muhammad, General Counsel for the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan read the entire bill paying special attention to the wording in sections 1021 and 1022, the most controversial parts dealing with those subject to military detention. Although the wording seems to suggest American citizens would not be covered, it leaves the door open should another president come into office with another interpretation, he added.
“It is important to note that President Obama himself upon signing the bill, issued a three page presidential policy statement specifically raising concerns about the constitutionality of those provisions, especially as they relate to American citizens. As the commander-in-chief, the bill authorized him to promulgate regulations to implement the law. He specifically says in his presidential statement that he would not promulgate and implement any rules or regulations that would specifically impact American citizens and their constitutional rights,” Atty. Muhammad continued. “The mere fact that he had to make this statement upon signing the bill is clear evidence of problems with the law.”
What also has many disturbed is that after originally saying he would veto the bill, Pres. Obama quickly signed it into law, forcing critics to wonder if he will keep his word relating to not using the law to indefinitely detain citizens.
Dawud Walid
“It’s not that I believe that the president is disingenuous, but there’s been a number of times during his presidency where he has quickly changed his position based on minimal political pressure,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations. “If he said he was going to give people in Guantanamo Bay due process and civilian trials, and then backtracked on that, he’s already set a precedent for me to think that he could backtrack on his written promise regarding NDAA.”
In a recent opinion piece titled “Obama’s Failed Human Rights Moment,” Jonathan Hafetz, professor at Seton Hall School of Law and author of the book “Habeas Corpus after 9/11: Confronting America’s New Global Detention System wrote : “The danger, however, is that the NDAA will embolden those who wish to argue that the next terrorism suspect arrested in the U.S. can be locked away in a military jail without charge or trial. The ramifications of domestic military detention should concern anyone concerned with abuse of government power,” Prof. Hafetz continued. “Could soldiers seize and imprison a person arrested at his home in say Lincoln, Nebraska, for writing a check to a group that supported al-Qaeda? Or a doctor in New York who sent medical supplies to an organization in Kenya that provided humanitarian aid to a group in that country deemed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda? Rather than making clear that the government does not have this power, the NDAA creates more uncertainty.”
A majority of the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against NDAA, but not all. Two Democratic CBC members from Texas, Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee and Rep. Al Green both voted in favor of it. Inquires requesting comments from both were not returned by Final Call press time. Rep. Jackson-Lee sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security chaired by Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)
Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) told The Final Call he voted against it because in his opinion, the NDAA does not represent the country’s principles.
“There was a lot of conversation about whether this was ‘Act 2’ or ‘Phase 2’ of the Patriot Act which we thought trampled on the rights of the American citizens,” said Rep. Cleaver. “We all grew up with the belief based on the Constitution that we were innocent until proven guilty and to have people detained, whether it is in this country or another country—which is another issue with this legislation—without any kind of trial, and to detain people indefinitely is not what America stands for,” he added.
Though not discussed in the mainstream media, nor by Pres. Obama’s spokesmen, in the hundreds of sections of the bill totaling over 500 pages, the NDAA contains provisions for continued funding for the war in Afghanistan.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
“That war—the longest in U.S. history—has cost thousands of American lives, untold Afghan civilian deaths, and hundreds of billions of dollars. As an original cosponsor of the Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, I believe the only defense money we spend on Afghanistan should be for the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) in a statement after voting against the NDAA. “Second, we should not be codifying post-9/11 security measures that threaten civil liberties. Everyone from the ACLU to the FBI has expressed concerns about the bill. By preventing the military from transferring detainees to U.S. prisons, the bill essentially ensures that Guantanamo Bay will never be closed,” he added.
According to the worldwide human rights organization Amnesty International, 171 detainees remain held there.
Even foreign nations weighed in criticizing America’s human rights record. Also citing the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay, Russia’s Foreign Ministry harshly criticized the Obama administration’s human rights record accusing them of hypocritically scolding other nations about rights abuses, while curtailing the freedom of its own citizens. According to news reports, the 90-page report directly slammed Pres. Obama for “legalizing indefinite and extrajudicial custody and the return of court martials.”
For months, troubling questions have been raised by Muslims as the net of those at risk of being labeled “domestic terrorists,” or having “ties to terrorists” is broadened to include just about anyone.
According to recent guidelines distributed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to military surplus stores in the state of Colorado, some legal activities could result in an overzealous, or fearful store owner reporting customers to the FBI. Under the heading: “What Should I Consider Suspicious?” things such as insisting on paying for purchases with cash, shaving off a beard or changing the color of one’s hair could warrant a phone call to the Joint Terrorism Task Force in that area.

'It’s not that I believe that the president is disingenuous, but there’s been a number of times during his presidency where he has quickly changed his position based on minimal political pressure.'

—Dawud Walid, Council of American Islamic Relations
With the terrible weather experienced in the year 2011, it would not be surprising to discover an increasing number of self-reliant and forward thinking people purchasing and storing food and supplies in the event of a weather emergency, however, according to the FBI’s guidelines, anyone purchasing weatherproof match containers, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), flashlights or gas masks could be suspect.
Furthermore, as it relates to Muslims, the well-publicized “foiled plots” and prejudicial trials appear to be energizing a well-financed “anti-Sharia” movement that opposes the building of mosques in the U.S. To the intellectually incurious, political operatives such as GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and former candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain give the movement a patina of legitimacy.
Fueled by the hate-filled Islamophobic writings and rhetoric espoused by those classified by the Center for American Progress as “misinformation experts,” many Americans are victims of the virulent anti-Muslim propaganda that has been allowed to spread unchecked.
Right-wing conservative writers like Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum, Jewish blogger Pamela Geller and her patron, Robert Spencer of JihadWatch, along with the bloviating rhetoric espoused by media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have created a dangerously xenophobic climate for Muslims in the U.S., and abroad.
When 32-year-old White blonde-hair blue-eyed Norwegian Anders Breivik gunned down dozens of youth in July, he saw himself as a soldier in the battle to prevent the “Islamic Colonization of Europe.” In his heavily footnoted manifesto, Mr. Breivik echoed the views of those spearheading the persecution of Muslims here. Mr. Spencer’s writings were cited 162 times, Ms. Geller’s blog was cited 12 times. Both denied responsibility for inciting Mr. Breivik to murder, while at the same time accusing Muslim writers, lecturers and scholars of inciting “terrorism plots” that have never even materialized.

'Could a scholar or researcher who has read “controversial” literature and published commentary regarding it or any author espousing views considered by some to be “radical” be snared in the net of being classified as a potential terrorist? Could an internet blogger posting what may be considered “unpopular” political views find themselves in the same situation?'
A 2010 study released by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill titled “Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans” found that while a tiny number of Muslims may have been angered and possibly “radicalized” following the events of 9/11, “the vast majority of Muslim-Americans reject radical extremist ideology and violence.” The researchers did however, find a significant increase what they termed “anti-Muslim bias.”
Following the drone killing in Yemen of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, Mr. Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the UK-based Ramadhan Foundation spoke out against Al-Qaeda but warned against the Obama administration’s escalating number of extrajudicial assassinations.
“Al Qaeda’s ideology of violence and killing is evil and has no justification in Islam and we in the Muslim community abhor this ideology as our Islamic duty,” said Mr. Shafiq. “Human rights should not be disregarded when it comes to alleged terrorists but the process of law should be followed,” he added.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union have monitored cases involving many individuals classified as “terrorist sympathizers” for their obvious First-Amendment implications as well as the potential for abuse.
Mr. Walid believes the “material support for terrorism” designation or accusing persons or groups of being “affiliates” of terrorist groups is “too ambiguous” and demonstrates a “lack of transparency” dealing with how individuals and groups are labeled by government and law enforcement officials.
“My concern in the language is in the ambiguous word ‘affilliates.’ Affiliates can be detained, and an affiliate is a very loose term like—what does that mean? That’s what really bothers me and this isn’t something that Muslims alone should be worried about—people of other faith traditions (also) because it’s very easy that someone could be put on a list and classified as a so-called ‘sympathizer,’” Mr. Walid added.
Could a scholar or researcher who has read “controversial” literature and published commentary regarding it or any author espousing views considered by some to be “radical” be snared in the net of being classified as a potential terrorist? Could an internet blogger posting what may be considered “unpopular” political views find themselves in the same situation? Any American citizen who has attended an educational facility or even a seminar overseas—especially in one of the regions considered by the U.S. to be a “haven for terrorists”— could possibly find themselves on a terrorist watch list, even if they have not been involved in anything remotely related to terrorist acts.
Analysts say jailing people simply for the power of their ideas while using circumstantial evidence such as travel habits is a slippery slope unrepresentative of the noble ideals espoused by the Obama administration. It also ignores the role of America’s unpopular foreign policy related to the Muslim world as well as unpopular military action in Muslim lands as reasons for growing angry dissent domestically and internationally.
“The Muslim world is boiling,” said editor of The Arab Journal, Ali Baghdadi. “Obama went to Turkey—which is an Islamic country—and spoke in Istanbul, he went to Egypt and spoke at Cairo University, he told the entire Muslim world that the United States is not an enemy of Islam and he promised to have change, he promised to have hope, and everything was nothing but a lie. The man may have good intentions but he doesn’t have the strength to stand up to the Israeli lobby and he does not have the power to stand up to big business and the war industry,” he said.
In a recent interview while in Saint Kitts during his Caribbean Tour, Minister Farrakhan, said it was “unfortunate” that Pres. Obama is now seen by many as an “extension of George W. Bush” and his administration’s unpopular policies.
Mr. Walid agreed, saying not only is he disappointed in Pres. Obama, he is disappointed in many of the traditional Black civil rights leaders and organizations for their failure to challenge the president on this issue and others like it.
“I’m disappointed in our Black civil rights leaders and organizations that raised a number of concerns very vocally regarding President Bush and his administration’s erosion of civil liberties in America but they’ve been deafly silent on a number of these issues as it relates to Obama,” said Mr. Walid. “If we are to be a people about justice, we have to hold people accountable.”
Citing the Gulf War under George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and most recently, the U.S.-led NATO military aggression resulting in the removal and assassination of Col. Muammar Gadhafi, Atty. Muhammad said the Minister’s consistent outspokenness on behalf of the oppressed has placed him as the sole voice of justice and therefore, a possible target of this law.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has always been a person who has exercised his first amendment constitutional right to free speech to raise a voice of dissent against America’s foreign policies that are unjust to oppressed peoples,” said Atty. Muhammad. “The question becomes, whether or not his exercise of his right to express his dissent can be interpreted under this law to be a justifiable basis to detain him in military custody without benefit of his constitutional right to trial.”
Last February, during his Saviours’ Day 2011 keynote address, Minister Farrakhan presciently and prophetically spoke about this very subject relating to the history of his teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, with direct references to events that he may experience in the near future in an attempt by the U.S. government to neutralize him.
“These are my words for our brother president, Barack Obama: In 1942, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was sent to prison because President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an Executive Order to take him off the streets when America was prosecuting a war, and America needed some Black bodies to go and fight a war even though there was no benefit for us in fighting such a war. And now, the Zionists are pushing President Obama to go to war with Iran over some suspected nuclear power that the Israelis have that Iran does not have,” said Minister Farrakhan. “Do you think that they’re afraid of my voice? Yes they are! I don’t have any guns. What I have is something in my mouth that’s more powerful than guns! While most of you with “guns” can’t shoot straight anyway, with The Truth that I speak, I don’t miss a soul! Allah’s Truth finds you wherever you are! If America goes to war, President Obama, like President Roosevelt, may be forced to sign an Executive Order that he’s not fully in agreement with, to take Farrakhan off the streets; and charge him with ‘sedition’ and ‘treason.’”
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