A Review of National Defense Authorization Act
on the 10th Anniversary of Guantanámo Bay Prison
Obama, contrary to his claim that he was going to veto the
NDAA, signed it, making him the first president ever in the United States to
sign into law indefinite detention as part of the policy of the United
Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for
It’s terribly offensive when political groups invoke Hitler’s Nazi Germany
in the attempt to demonize a president and his health care policies as seen
on FOXTV and at Tea Party meetings. It has the result of trivializing the
essential meaning of fascism and the unspeakable crimes and atrocities that
resulted from Hitler’s Gestapo laws. Furthermore, when Nazism is reduced to
abstract political rhetoric, it’s easy to confuse the difference between
laws that are actually an alarming threat to our freedoms, and mere
propaganda to score political points.
Having said that, we need to understand exactly what is at stake after
President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act.
We’re talking about abolishing our most valued constitutional rights that
have endured the test of time for 221 years—until now. This is not a
passing news story, and it should not be reported as such. The NDAA laws
are the real thing. Thus, in order to demonstrate how radically un-American
the NDAA laws are—it’s worth remembering how the Gestapo (secret state
police laws) emerged in the 1930s and how they abolished the liberties of
the German people.
December 2011, members of the House and Senate passed the National Defense
Authorization Act (NDAA) authored by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl
Levin (D-Mich) and John McCain (R.-Ariz.). The NDAA set off a firestorm of
criticisms, rightfully so, because it obliterates the 4th, 5th,
6th and 8th Amendments.
Since 1791, our liberties have been upheld and defended. The President and
every member of the House and Senate swore an oath on the Bible to defend
the Constitution. In a matter of seconds, 221 years of the preservation of
our Bill of Rights were eliminated under President Obama’s signature on the
symbolic day of the New Year 2012. Although Obama initially promised to veto
the NDAA, he ultimately signed the bill into law while vacationing with his
family in Hawaii.
What’s at stake or what did we lose? To summarize, here are the liberties
that define a free and civil democracy expunged under the NDAA:
Constitutional Rights Abolished under the NDAA:
Right to Know Specific Charges against us…
Right against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures…
Right to a Speedy and "Public" Trial…
Right to an Impartial Jury…
Right to Confront Witnesses against us…
Right to a Lawyer…
Right to Call Witnesses for us…
Right against Self Incrimination…
Right against Double Jeopardy …
Right against Cruel And Unusual Punishments Inflicted…
Right Against Slavery And Involuntary Servitude Without Being Duly
Right to Peaceably Assemble and to Petition for Redress of Grievances…
Right to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness...
The language and intent of the NDAA are eerily similar to Hitler’s ‘Gestapo
Law’ during the 1930s, Germany.
• Section 1021 of the NDAA allows the U.S. military to
indefinitely detain, without due process, any person engaged in "hostilities
against the United States or its coalition partners ... without trial until
the end of hostilities."
• Section 1022 expressly states that the military will
imprison anyone who is a member of al-Qaeda or "an
associated force" that acts like al-Qaeda; and anyone who planned
or carried out an attack, or attempted attack, against the U.S.
• Section 1022 continues that detaining American
citizens is not required. The requirement to detain a person in military
custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
The President is not “required” however, he is “ALLOWED” to imprison
citizens of the United States if he solely desires.
bottom line is the government can imprison anyone suspected of or even
associated with terrorism. This power is open to wide interpretation and
could certainly be abused.” (BusinessInsider.com)
Example: the federal government has referred to environmental
protesters as “eco-terrorists”. In this shocking revelation reported in the
Los Angeles Times, a man who video-taped an abused cow in the attempt to
rescue the poor animal is
considered by the F.B.I. a “terrorist” for video-taping the cruel
treatment inflicted on the animal.
Question: Is it a coincidence that
members of the House and Senate quickly passed the NDAA for the President’s
signature before the Occupy Wall Street and Keystone-tar sands oil pipeline
demonstrations begin this coming spring?
detention without charge or trial is nearly identical to the
February 10, 1936, the Nazi Reichstag passed the 'Gestapo Law' which
included the following paragraph:
"Neither the instructions nor the affairs of the Gestapo will
be open to review by the administrative courts." This meant the Gestapo was
now above the law and there could be no legal or civil court appeal
regarding anything it did.
Indeed, the Gestapo became a law unto itself.
It was entirely possible for someone to be
arrested, interrogated and sent to a concentration camp for incarceration or
summary execution, without any outside legal procedure. (The
The above description provides a scenario of what can happen when the
military assumes the role of civil police officers, which, under the NDAA,
allows military soldiers to arrest suspected citizens. Similar to ‘Gestapo
law’, the suspected American citizen has no recourse to the judicial system.
Under the NDAA, the suspect can be sent to a secret prison in a different
country (extraordinary rendition) and be tortured and detained indefinitely.
Secondly, similar to ‘Gestapo Law’, citizens have no recourse to a legal
court system if they are abused, tortured or killed by the military.
Third, without the Bill of Rights, the law becomes arbitrary.
Justice in Hitler's Germany was completely arbitrary,
depending on the whim of the man in power, the man
who had you in his grip…The first thing Hitler did was to prohibit regular
uniformed police from interfering with Nazi military out in the streets.
This meant that innocent German citizens had no one to turn to as they were
being beaten up by rowdy young storm troopers drunk with their newfound
Unlike the Iraq
and Afghanistan invasions, World War II was a war of necessity that had to
be fought in order to defend and protect our liberties from Hitler’s
Here are a few
selected descriptions once Gestapo laws were enforced. Consider also the
hideous photos of Iraqi prisoners that were
tortured and killed from similar Gestapo-like
torture methods approved by the Bush administration—and it’s unclear if
these torture practices have continued or ended under the Obama
administration. We do know that Obama expanded surveillance operations on
American citizens. The signing of the NDAA was the last straw.
Heydrich, Hitler’s number two
man, proved to be something of a genius in
creating a hugely efficient national intelligence (surveillance) system that
kept tabs on everyone. No one was exempt from Gestapo snooping, no
matter how high up in the Nazi hierarchy.
Every Gestapo agent operated
at the center of a large web of spies and informants.
The problem for the average citizen was
that no one ever knew for sure just who those informants were. It
could be anyone, your milkman, the old lady across the street, a quiet
co-worker, even a schoolboy. As a result, fear ruled the day.
Most people realized the necessity of
self-censorship and generally kept their mouths shut politically, unless
they had something positive to say...
Gestapo interrogation methods
water-boarding of a prisoner,
electric shocks by attaching wires to hands, feet, ears and genitalia;
crushing a man's testicles in a special vice;
securing a prisoner's wrists behind his
back then hanging him by the arms causing shoulder dislocation; beatings
with rubber nightsticks and cow-hide whips; and burning flesh with
matches or a soldering iron…
Now read how
the author of “Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantánamo,”
was tortured and detained under U.S. military authority from 2001 to 2006 at
their interrogations, they dunked my head under water and punched me in the
stomach; they don’t call this waterboarding but
it amounts to the same thing. I was sure I would drown…At one point, I was
chained to the ceiling of a building and hung by my hands for days. A doctor
sometimes checked if I was O.K.; then I would be strung up again. The pain
was unbearable.” And that’s not all,
it gets worse. Read the entire op-ed by Murat Kurnaz at the
New York Times.
during World War II. But after President Obama signed into law the NDAA,
those who died fighting Hitler’s authoritarian plan to occupy the world must
be turning over in their graves right now. Did they all die in vain? Civil
rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., is surely turning over in his grave.
King was a threat to the corporate and military elites during the 1960s;
under the NDAA, he’d probably be profiled as a terrorist. When it was
discovered that the F.B.I. was wiretapping King’s phone, the FISA laws were
passed, making it illegal to wiretap
without a sufficient warrant. The
FISA laws are now arbitrary on account of the Patriot Act and under
Obama’s expansion of surveillance operations. The tragedy is that we’ve
grown accustomed to accepting the idea that our phone conversations our
being recorded. Indeed, how many editors and journalists have learned, in
the Gestapo tradition, “the necessity of self-censorship” in all forms of
In time, Mr.
Obama’s shameful legacy will be defined by the NDAA; that he was the first
Democratic president to sign away our constitutional liberties and to
replace the Bill of Rights with Gestapo-like laws. Murat Kurnaz speaks for
us all, perhaps, when he asked the following question that demands an answer
from the President and to those who approved of the NDAA in the House and
Senate: “It is hard not to
think about my time at Guantánamo and to wonder how it is possible that a
democratic government can detain people in intolerable conditions and
without a fair trial.”
Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.
-Wendell Phillips (1811-1884)
progress of things is for Liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
-Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
time we stop,
hey what's that sound
everybody look what's goin down...
Buffalo Springfield, "For
What It's Worth"
Bill of Rights:
Constitutional Law Cases and Materials: Dowling and Gunther
Los Angeles Times:
with David Hicks:
New York Times
Jacqueline Marcus taught political philosophy at Cuesta College, San
Luis Obispo, California, and is the author of
Close to the Shore, (poems)
Michigan State University Press. She is the editor of
ForPoetry.com and a regular guest contributing writer for
Buzzflash.com at Truthout.org.