The Military: The New Cop on the Beat

In an article entitled “Obama Should Veto Empire Over Republic,” Coleen Rowley, former FBI special agent and pre-9/11 whistleblower, takes the U.S.Senate to task for the inclusion of a wrenching violation of civil liberties in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA, passed by a vote of 93 to 7, allows the military to operate within the borders of the United States, and to possibly — if not probably — detain U.S. citizens without trial. Those detained would not have the right to an attorney and no right against self-incrimination.

We already have ample evidence of how badly the United States performs in identifying those who might do harm to the nation. None of the first 1,000 detainees the FBI rounded up — and brutalized in some cases– were charged with terrorism. Hundreds of Gitmo detainees were found, after years of captivity, to have no connection to terrorism. The International Red Cross concluded that at least 70 percent of the thousands detained by the U.S. military command in Iraq had not been charged with any crime. Wives, siblings and parents of suspects were held in the hope that were might reveal the location of the suspected insurgent.

The provision in the NDAA allowing the military to operate as the domestic cop on the beat, just adds to what once were considered to be sanctified civil liberties in the U.S. Constitution. The Patriot Act’s “material support for terrorism” language includes humanitarian aid and even mere advocacy speech without any need to prove an accused person intended to support any kind of terrorist violence. An individual may be detained for providing “direct support” in aid of “associated forces” that are “engaged in hostilities against… coalition partners.” “Associated forces” could be defined as political dissidents, human rights activists, humanitarians, or even “occupiers.”

As Coleen Rowley puts it in this latest offense against the Constitution found in the National Defense Authorization Act: “But a lawless Military Empire could now await where the Commander in Chief becomes king for a term(s), the military enters into police state actions in violation of 130 years of Posse Comitatus  law, and the Constitution becomes as quaint as the Geneva Conventions were for Alberto Gonzalez and the Bush administration.”

We already have engaged in preemptive war in violation of the Nuremberg Principles and international law, and torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture. Legal scholars may remind us that Nazis were rebuffed in the Nuremberg trials when they made the preemptive was argument for Germany, citing British war games in the North Sea in the 1930s.

Top officials engaged in what gets labeled as national security work have opposed giving the military a law enforcement role. President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the NDAA if it contains the military law enforcement language. It can only be hoped that Obama will carry through on his vow to veto, in light of the overwhelming approval in the U.S. Senate.

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