President Obama announced last week that he was not planning to veto the National Defense Authorization Act — a bill with provisions upending the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and arguably common law dating back to the Magna Carta: the right to a trial and to not be imprisoned without review.
MCCRC activists were determined to weigh in on a decision that will have terrible consequences for the rule of law in this country. We decided to select Obama’s Montgomery County, Maryland “Organizing for America” headquarters in Kensington, on Wednesday during evening phonebanking hours. Our goals: (1) to serve notice that we’re willing to protest President Obama’s plans or decisions when necessary, “even” in an election season, (2) to engage Obama volunteers about the NDAA bill, (3) to persuade some of them to call the White House — (202) 456-1414 — and urge Obama to veto the bill, and (4) to discuss with them the general “security at the price of liberty” policies that have accelerated since 9/11 — and that have been continued or even expanded under the Obama administration.
Obama volunteers — whether inside the office or at the building entrance — were surprised to see us, and many told us they hadn’t heard about the NDAA bill before we had spoken with them.
For his part, the evening office volunteer manager was willing to hear from us, and listened with interest as we explained our problems with the NDAA. He said he would share the news and reasons of our visit with higher-ups in the Obama campaign organization.
He also agreed to distribute about a dozen copies of our one page, two-sided informational flyer to the evening’s volunteers. The flyer featured the New York Times editorial “Politics over Principle” on one side and excerpts from Glenn Greenwald’s “Three myths about the detention bill” on the other. As these articles explain, the bill…
- strips civilian law enforcement and courts of the power to prosecute terrorists, giving that to the military
- codifies indefinite detention of those charged, without trial
- does not preclude that American citizens might suffer the same fate, despite the Bill of Rights
- expands the scope of the “war on terror” beyond those responsible for 9/11 or harboring them, to anyone who “substantially supports” such groups and/or “associated forces”
While too much of the above has already been occurring, it’s a legally meaningful and bad thing for such practices to be expressly codified by Congress and signed by the President. It’s additionally disappointing — and ominous for democracy — that a president who campaigned on the “Hope” for “Change” so many of us shared, and who specifically opposed many of these measures on the campaign trail, might now choose to make them the law of the land.
Many of us believe it’s important to take a stand against these encroachments of our rights and liberties — wherever we are, and no matter who is responsible. By next Wednesday, we sadly anticipate that President Obama will have signed the NDAA into law.
So we’re asking everyone in our area to join us that next Wednesday, December 28, at 4:30pm at 3750 University Blvd. West, Kensington MD (map)* to protest the NDAA’s passage at Obama for Maryland headquarters. And we hope Americans elsewhere will do the same at the Obama campaign headquarters nearest to them.
UPDATE 2: please also call the Obama campaign at (312) 698-3670 to express your opposition to the NDAA.
UPDATE 3: we showed up again on the 28th — but the Obama campaign didn’t!
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Further reading on the NDAA’s detention provisions:
- NDAA Conference report: Detainee section (via Lawfare)
- Obama signing statement
- Detainee Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Bills (Elsea/Garcia, Congressional Research Service, 11/18/11 – prior to final conf.cmte. version)
- BORDC NDAA page, Bill of Rights Defense Committee
- Military Police State (Lithwick, Slate.com, 11/30)
- @BarackObama: Protect #US National Security and #VetoNDAA! (Wala, HRF, 12/14)
- US: Refusal to Veto Detainee Bill A Historic Tragedy for Rights (HRW, 12/14)
- Politics Over Principle (NY Times editorial, 12/15)
- Three Myths About The Detention Bill (Greenwald, Salon.com, 12/16)
- President Obama: Veto Indefinite Detention (ACLU, 12/16); all NDAA posts
- A Bill of Rights for Some (Cole, New York Review of Books, 12/16)
- So you think you’ve arrested a terrorist (Reilly, Talking Points Memo, 12/20)
- New Military Detention Powers Threaten Basic Rights (RealNewsNetwork, 12/21)
- So…You’ve Been Indefinitely Detained (Bolling, Tom The Dancing Bug, 12/21)l
- The NDAA Explained (Mariner, Justia): Part One (12/21); Part Two (1/2)
- The NDAA: Another Assault in the Dead of Night (Buttar, People’s Blog for the Constitution, 12/23); Torture Enabling Expanded Detention: the NDAA in context (Buttar, MyFDL); What Comes Next? The Future of the NDAA (Buttar, People’s Blog)
- President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention into Law (ACLU, 12/31)
- The Detainee Provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (Lederman, Balkinization, 12/31; Lederman appears less concerned than other writers; see also this 12/13 memo by Kate Martin, CNS).
- The NDAA and Military Detention (Hafetz, Balkinization, 1/3)
- Promises, Promises: President Obama’s NDAA Signing Statement (Eviatar, HuffPo, 1/4)
* Public Transportation: From the Bethesda Metro Station, take Ride-On Bus #33 towards Glenmont (30 min.) or #34 towards Wheaton (37 min.). From the Wheaton Metro Station, take Ride-On Bus #34 towards Friendship Heights (7 min.)
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