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Thursday, Jan 19, 2012, 3:40 pm

Communities Challenge NDAA, and Its Supporters

By Andrew Bashi

As civil libertarians gear up for a nation-wide day of action against the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA) on February 3, efforts against the law are already underway at the local and state levels.

Last month, El Paso County, Colo. became the first local government to pass a resolution condemning the law. Home of the U.S. Air Force Academy, El Paso County’s Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the “Resolution to Preserve Habeas Corpus and Civil Liberties,” explicitly opposing Sections 1031 and 1032 of the law. These sections contain provisions that allow the military to arrest, indefinitely detain and deny a trial or day in court to anyone--including a U.S. citizen--accused of a “belligerent act” or any terror-related offenses.

A State Representative in Rhode Island plans to introduce a similar resolution in opposition to provisions in the law.

 

President Obama signed the NDAA into law on December 31, 2011. The law may deal a deathly blow to the constitutional rights of Americans, including the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process and the Sixth Amendment rights to challenge evidence and confront one's accusers.

According to Shahid Buttar, Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), several localities across the country are already considering moves similiar to El Paso County's.

BORDC has begun coordinating and assisting grassroots efforts in communities across the country that aim to push back against the newly passed law. “The NDAA may have passed, but grassroots opportunities abound to restore due process and the right to trial,” said Buttar in an e-mail exchange with In These Times. The organization has already begun providing a series of resources to grassroots organizers including a draft model resolution, suggested talking points and action models and support for those coordinating local campaigns.

In other states, campaigns are underway to oust the law’s supporters. Citizens in Montana have launched a recall campaign targeting both of their Senators, Max Baucus and Jonathan Tester, for their votes in support of the new law.

The vague implications of the law are especially disturbing for many activists as the “terrorist” label is applied ever more widely by the United States and its allies. Last month, a memo drafted by the London police titled “Terrorism/Extremism update for the City of London Business Community” was leaked to the public. Dated December 2, 2011, the document lists Occupy London as a potential domestic terrorism threat alongside the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) and al-Qaeda.

In the U.S., laws such as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), currently being challenged on Constitutional grounds by the Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as several recent Supreme Court decisions, have cast an extraordinarily broad net for what may be labelled terrorist activity.

As a result, the NDAA has produced anxiety across the political spectrum as Occupiers and Tea Partiers alike continue to organize against it.

Andrew Bashi is a Winter 2012 editorial intern at In These Times. A-third year law student at Loyola University Chicago, he is an active board member of the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

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