Indefinite Detention Coming to a Place Near You

We try not to get too political on this blog, but President Obama is about to sign into law the National Defense Authorization Act which, among its provisions, gives the president the authority to indefinitely detain individuals suspected of terrorism or of supporting terrorism.

The bill is basically an assault on the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which requires that the government grant a speedy and open trial to individuals accused of crimes. While supports of the legislation insist that terrorism is not a crime, but an act of war, this is mere semantics. After all, for the past 40 years, the government has conducted a War on Drugs, and it is only a series of very minor linguistic tweaks before those accused of drug crimes are accused of acts of war in this War on Drugs.

It’s important to note that there has never been a Declaration of War, and whatever congressional authorizations for war were addressed specifically to Iraq (a war which ended last week) and Afghanistan.

Once the government perfects its linguistic assaults on constitutional liberties in this realm, expect the whole matter of indefinite detention creep into other areas. For instance, high level drug deals will be re-classified as terrorist supporters – as there have already been claims from the administration that Al Qaeda is in league with South American drug trafficking gangs.

There was a reason for the constitution, and it was to constrain the government, and to make prosecution difficult, with the intended purpose of protecting individual liberties.

All of that is going away in the name of expediency, whether by a Democratic President, or Republican presidential candidates who would do the same or, worse, completely ignore Supreme Court rulings they did not like.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.