As with many of you, I have been deluged with a plethora of material regarding U.S. President Obama’s Signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 on December 31, 2011.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is not in itself malevolent. In fact, it has been enacted for each of the past forty-nine years to specify the budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense. The 2012 enactment authorizes $662 billion in funding “for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad.”
Those “interests” include national security programs, Department of Defense health care costs, counter-terrorism within the U.S. and abroad, and military modernization. Also included are new economic sanctions against Iran, reviews of the military capabilities of countries including Iran, China, and Russia, and the move of the strategic goals of NATO toward energy security.
However, it is the section entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” specifically sub-sections 1021 and 1022 that have garnered the attention of politicians, pundits, analysts, and the American public in all forms of media. To be honest, though, one observation raised a question that would not go away. What could possibly lie behind a legislative act that sided a majority of Republican and Democrat politicians on the positive side of the issue, and the American public, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, the Voice of Russia, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Human Rights Watch (just to name a few) on the negative side of the issue? The only common denominator appears to be “fear.”
The Negative Impact of NDAA 2012
The voices united against NDAA 2012 insist the legislation gives power to the U.S. President (as Commander in Chief) to detain U.S. citizens without due process for the duration of hostilities in the War on Terror. It is indeed the ambiguity of the language that fuels the opponents to the legislation. Sec. 1021, Affirmation of Authority of the Armed Forces of the United States to Detain Covered Persons Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, is the legislation’s “discretionary” detention provision. It authorizes the U.S. President to detain persons who “substantially supported” forces “associated” with al-Qaeda or the Taliban that “are engaged in hostilities” against the U.S. or its “coalition partners.”
Significantly, the above quoted terms are not defined within the body of the Act. Without knowing what qualifies as substantially supporting an associated force, no one can be sure anyone is safe from the government’s military detention.
Sec. 1022, Military Custody for Foreign al-Qaeda Terrorists, is the legislation’s “mandatory” detention provision that requires the U.S. President to detain members of al-Qaeda who have planned or carried out attacks against the U.S. or its coalition partners. Sec. 1022 specifically states that it “does not extend to the citizens of the United States.”
It appears the simple clarification regarding the exemption of U.S. citizens within Sec. 1021 would have avoided weeks of political turmoil. In fact, an amendment with that exemption language failed to pass the Senate on December 1st with a vote of 45-55. Instead, the following amendment passed 99-1 and was entered into the body of Sec. 1021:1
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.
Upon signing NDAA 2012, President Obama tried to reassure the American public with the following statement:
Moving forward, my administration will interpret and implement the provisions described below in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded…Again, ambiguity failed to achieve the intended goal. Accusations of stripping the Bill of Rights from the American people ramped up with flaming rhetoric mixed with fear that the Constitution has now been shredded.
Proponents of NDAA 2012
More than two-thirds of the 435 Representatives voted in favor of the NDAA. Of 100 Senators, only 13 voted against the NDAA. Unlike many legislative efforts, this was decidedly non-partisan. Members of both political parties voted “for” and “against” the legislation.Supporters of the legislation maintain that NDAA simply “affirms” the President’s authority under the 9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which they report already grants presidential authority for indefinite detention. The AUMF reads:
The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
While supporters adamantly repeat that NDAA 2012 does not apply to U.S. citizens, it is clear that Sec. 1021 expands the presidential provisions of AUMF. It is also clear that the Representatives and Senators voted to enact legislation in which many of them voiced concern of trampling on the U.S. Constitution and the rights of U.S. citizens.
Is it possible they believe the day is quickly approaching in which the “terrorists” will actually be U.S. citizens—tares planted by the enemy among the wheat?
A Multitude of Voices
Surprisingly, there are many voices supporting the outcries of the American public—voices that have never been in accord before. Again, the common factor may be fear, but for diverse reasons.
Aziz Rana, professor of constitutional law at Cornell University told Al Jazeera that provisions of NDAA 2012 define the entire world as a battlefield, allowing for open-ended detainment of U.S. citizens without a trial. He further explained that these provisions were merely the “latest round in a long battle between Congress, the executive branch, and rights activists.”2
Voice of Russia, an international radio broadcasting service, was disparaging of the legislation stating, “...the U.S. military will have the power to detain Americans suspected of involvement in terrorism without charge or trial and imprison them for an indefinite period of time.” They concluded that most analysts are comparing the new law to the edicts of “the Third Reich” or “Muslim tyrannies.” Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU—an organization usually at odds with actually defending the U.S. Constitution), stated:3
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...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.
Another analyst suggested the flexibility of the language of NDAA 2012 means the law can be interpreted in any means desired if there is a sufficient amount of fear being created through “false flag terror attacks.”
Still other voices are questioning the timing of the massive budget approved within NDAA 2012. Interestingly, the Senate’s vote came on the same day that Defense Secretary Panetta was in Baghdad officially declaring that our military mission there has ended and that “virtually all of the combat troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year.” Indeed, the battlefield has been extended beyond the bounds of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Wheat and the Tares
Americans are now feeling much like “enemy combatants” in their own country. The ambiguity of NDAA 2012 is causing many to feel like players in the Matthew 13 parable, Verse 25: “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.”
In the parable (Matthew 13:30), the tares were left with the wheat until the time of harvest so that the wheat would not be uprooted with the tares. Unfortunately, in this scenario, U.S. leaders believe they need to harvest the tares (terrorists—whether citizen or non-citizen) regardless of collateral damage to the wheat (citizens). Fear has opened the door to unprecedented opportunities for tyranny in the days ahead.
It would also appear that some of the loudest outcries against NDAA 2012 are coming from people and organizations who may be involved in planting tares on American soil. Proverbs 1:7 instructs us in the appropriate application of “fear”:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The late historian, Howard Zinn, is a man with whom I share few opinions. However, I agree wholeheartedly with his following assessment:
Terrorism has replaced Communism as the rationale for the militarization of the country [America], for military adventures abroad, and for the suppression of civil liberties at home. It serves the same purpose, serving to create hysteria.
Since 2001, the Patriot Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, and now the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 have been progressively instituted because of the fear of what the future holds in the days in which we live.
“There is a way that seems right to a man….” (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25). This is a good time to remind ourselves that our primary focus is on the One who is in ultimate control, and as Ephesians 6:18, 19 exhorts:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.