Buried within an 1,844-page bill currently sitting on Barack Obama’s desk awaiting his signature is text that many critics are warning could give the president legal authority to send Americans to jail without charges, without trial, without end.
Both the U.S. House and Senate have passed the National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that affects dozens of aspects of foreign and military policy, but that was designed primarily to give the military – and not civilian courts – the clear authority for prosecuting and jailing terrorists.
But voices from across the political spectrum are concerned that the bill opens the door for the military – led by the president as commander in chief – to indefinitely detain American citizens, even within the U.S.
“We’re talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantanamo Bay and held indefinitely,” explains Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of 13 senators who voted against the bill. “There are laws on the books right now that characterize who might be a terrorist: someone missing fingers on their hands is a suspect, according to the Department of Justice. Someone who has guns, someone who has ammunition that is weatherproofed, someone who has more than seven days of food in their house can be considered a potential terrorist. If you are suspected because of these activities, do you want the government to have the ability to send you to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention?”
The senator was likely referring to documents released by the Department of Justice in Obama’s first year in office listing everyone from returning veterans to pro-life activists to 2nd Amendment advocates as possible “domestic terrorists.”