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Indefinite detention is un-American

November 30, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Civil liberties have taken a real nose dive in recent years, thanks in part to the events of September 11, 2001.

But the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 is particularly noxious. Under that law, any person considered a substantial supporter of a group alleged to have committed hostilities against the United States can be held in a military prison without trial, essentially indefinitely, according to That applies to American citizens and to legal residents of the United States as well as to enemy combatants.

Yesterday the Senate passed the 2013 version of the bill by 67-29, with an amendment that reasserts the rights of those people to a fair trial – that is, unless an Act of Congress "authorizes" that he or she be held without charge or trial, according to an article at the Business Gee. What do you think the chances are that Congress will gladly give its permission to hold some alleged terrorism supporter in lockup forever and a day? The chances get even better if they have a general or CIA boss (hopefully not someone like ex-CIA boss David Petraeus) telling them it's in the interests of national security to do so.

I am well aware that the nation is at war. One of my relatives just deployed this week for yet another stint somewhere in the Middle East and his wife, children, parents and siblings are both proud of him and worried for his safety. He and they have made many sacrifices in the last decade, as he is often away from his family. I am also praying for his safety. But I am also aware of what he has been fighting for.

It seems to me that Americans all too easily people give away their civil rights in the interests of "safety." It's easy to support locking up the American Muslim kid who decides to go train in a terrorist training camp somewhere in Africa or the Muslim radical who appears to be giving financial support to a charity that could be a front for a paramilitary organization overseas. I do support locking up those people, provided they have first been provided with a defense lawyer and a fair, speedy trial. These are among the rights afforded to Americans and others who live here that people like my cousin have spent over a decade fighting for.

Tell Congress that there should be no conditions placed on the right to a fair trial. Anything less is un-American.


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