National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) was signed into law by President Obama at the end of 2011, December 31st to be precise. If you haven’t heard about it then let me tell you a little bit about it. Since the 9-11 terrorist attack on America we have been legislating rather vigorously and rigorously with the basic intention of providing more security, but the downside of increased surveillance and intrusive vigil by the government also means the loss of basic freedoms which we have been safeguarded by our constitution.
First came the Patriot Act signed into law by President Bush-43 in October 2001 and had been reauthorized several times since then. It was rather controversial especially amongst civil libertarians because of onerous provisions within the act which allows for extensive probings on communications as well as records of financial transactions and even medical ones on foreign soil.
In the immediate aftermath of the devastating destruction caused by Muslim terrorists–whom we hardly understood and were minimally aware of–the panic and urgency was understandable. The Act may have prevented other attacks on our soil, but of course we, ordinary citizens, will never know whether it did or not. We will have to live under the assumption that it may have done some good in providing security.
Now comes the NDAA especially provisions contained in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism.” In particular, sub-sections 1021 and 1022, which deal with detention of persons the government suspects of involvement in terrorism. These have generated controversy as to their legal meaning and their potential implications for abuse of Presidential authority especially using the Armed Forces of the United States. The provision that detainees can be held for indefinite periods of time on US soil even US citizens and resident aliens.
Whenever the Armed Forces are used on American soil for these purposes, I personally feel that this is one step closer toward the invocation of martial law, no matter how small that step may be.
Having lived under martial law my experience is that it was definitely not a pleasant one and I dare say that any American born in America won’t have an inkling of an idea what it is. No matter who administers that martial law which usually is a military man, it is rule by force of arms. I perceive a gradual erosion of our freedoms and I fear that we may lose it all–yes even in America–given enough time without trying to sound alarmist in any way.
Call me paranoid or whatever but this is not something that I can recommend to any society let alone American society which had not seen one since Hurricane Katrina but this country had seen it numerous times–all of them temporarily. Martial law is usually imposed for extreme emergencies where life and property destruction has occurred and more is anticipated and is intended to be temporary and regional. The key word is temporary but in my native land it lasted almost fifty years on the whole population of 55 million. Several thousands have been killed by the military and tens of thousands imprisoned–a prison within a prison; the populace placed in a passive stupor.
I always compare what is going on around me to putting a frog into boiling water where it may jump out right away but when it is placed in a pot of cold water which is slowly being heated up he will not make any attempt to jump out but stay in it until he is literally boiled alive. With this example I mean to point out that incrementally the restrictions are imposed and the population’s tolerance accommodates to it, lulled into inaction.
When I was growing up, some more than fifty-five years ago there was a law known as Section 5 where arrests can be made by the government of anybody whom they consider subversive or sometimes just because they don’t like them for what they are doing, anytime of day or night and held without trial indefinitely. Later on there was a coup d’etat and martial law followed by dictatorial socialist rule –the economy was destroyed, moral torpor and corruption seeped in and all freedom was lost.
If this sound faintly familiar we may already have begun the journey. I hope I am wrong.