NDAA: How bad can it be?

With Congress passing the NDAA, the question many ask is simple: How bad will/can it get?  It’s a fair question.  While the constitutional questions this bill raises are a topic of debate amongst the talking heads and various other politicos, the average person must ask that simple question.

The NDAA essentially turns the entire United States into a warzone for the purposes of combating terrorism.  It also gives the government extra-constitutional powers for this very same purpose. Officially, this is about Al Qaeda and “associated forces”, whatever that means.

The thing is, when you look at how Obama’s White House has defined “domestic terrorists”, one is left to wonder when will they decide to define “associated forces” to include domestic terrorists.  Honestly, I don’t think it would take very long, and as there is no due process, it’s unlikely that the courts will get a say on this for a very long time.

So the first thing we have to understand is, “what is a domestic terrorist”?

((5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that—

`(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
`(B) appear to be intended—
`(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
`(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
`(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
`(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.’.

This is according Section 802 the PATRIOT Act.

Now, let’s look at how vague this definition really is.  Imagine you’re at a protest and someone throws a rock.  You don’t know who.  No one really does.  However, everyone knows one was thrown, because it smashed into a police car’s windshield.

Suddenly, you find the entire protest being rounded up.  You opt not to resist, because you didn’t do anything wrong and are sure you’ll be free to go.

Unfortunately, thanks to the NDAA, you’re wrong.

You see, throwing a rock and smashing a windshield is illegal.  As the implied purpose of throwing the rock was to coerce or intimidate, and you were there because you were trying to either change people’s minds or influence the policy of a government, congratulations, you are now being held as a potential terrorist.

However, the definition is even more vague than that.  Look at the structure of the definition for a moment.  Item (B) in particular.

(B) appear to be intended—

`(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
`(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
`(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

Now, I think few people would argue that (iii) would constitute terrorism.  However, look at (i) and (ii) and think of how easily that can be interpreted to constitute terrorism.

A protest, even without violence, can be seen as an attempt at intimidation or coercion.  After all, saying, “Do what we want or you’ll be out of a job,” could be an attempt to intimidate a politician to vote a certain way, but a non-violent one and one completely consistent with the intent of our Founding Fathers.

So, the only people who can’t possibly be labeled a terrorist are the most apathetic members of our society.  Those who don’t get involved in anything that could be controvesial.  After all, this doesn’t confine itself to just political discourse.  Arguing with a group of people about who should win American Idol could, theoretically, be an attempt to coerce a civilian population.

Now that we know that most of us could be defined as terrorists (If you’re at United Liberty, you’re probably involved in politics in some way), let’s look at the worst case scenario for the NDAA…and that is that they use it.

With the NDAA, all these “terrorists” can be rounded up and detained indefinitely.  No trial.  No phone calls.  No attorney.  Nothing even approaching due process.  Nada.

And just like that, we have officially become a police state.

Does that mean it will be applied just that way? Not necessarily.  The problem is that it can be applied that way.  If you’re an Obama supporter who doesn’t see a problem with this because you trust President Obama to not use it in this way, let me ask you one question.  Would you feel the same way if George W. Bush were still president?  What about if the GOP wins the next election?  Would you still be fine with it then?

Probably not.

 


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