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Profile: National Defense Authorization Act of 2012
National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 was a participant or observer in the following events:
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), joined by 13 Democrats and Republicans as co-sponsors, sponsors a bill to ban indefinite detention of US citizens and legal residents arrested in the United States. Feinstein does this on the same day that she and a number of her co-sponsors vote for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual ‘must pass’ defense spending bill that contains controversial provisions authorizing indefinite military detention of anyone, including US citizens arrested in the United States, accused of supporting groups hostile to the United States. Only 13 senators vote against the NDAA (see December 15, 2011). President Obama will sign the NDAA into law on December 31 (see December 31, 2011). The bill sponsored by Feinstein, S. 2003: Due Process Guarantee Act (DPGA), only exempts US citizens and legal residents from indefinite detention if arrested in the United States: “An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.” The NDAA also authorizes prisoners to be rendered and transferred to the custody of foreign countries and entities. As the DPGA does not explicitly ban this practice concerning US citizens and legal residents arrested in the United States, it is unclear what impact it would have, if any, on this particular aspect of the NDAA. [GovTrack.us, 12/15/2011] Feinstein says in a press release issued the same day: “We must clarify US law to state unequivocally that the government cannot indefinitely detain American citizens inside this country without trial or charge. I strongly believe that constitutional due process requires US citizens apprehended in the US should never be held in indefinite detention. And that is what this new legislation would accomplish.” [US Senator, 12/15/2011] According to a press release issued by co-sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the purpose of the DPGA is to “make clear that neither an authorization to use military force nor a declaration of war confer unfettered authority to the executive branch to hold Americans in indefinite detention.” In the 2004 Supreme Court opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor stated unequivocally, “We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.” [US Senator, 12/15/2011] As of August 2012, the DPGA will have a total of 30 co-sponsors. [GovTrack.us, 12/15/2011]
A federal judge denies the US government’s request (see May 25, 2012) to reconsider her order (see May 16, 2012) blocking enforcement of a law authorizing indefinite military detention, without charge or trial, of anyone, including US citizens arrested in the United States, accused of supporting groups hostile to the United States. Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA—see December 15, 2011) is under review in the case of Hedges v. Obama (see January 13, 2012) and Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the US District Court, New York Southern Division had issued a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the law after finding it unconstitutional.
Controversy over Scope of Detention Authority - The US government had also stated in its request for reconsideration that it was interpreting Forrest’s order as applying only to the plaintiffs in the case. Forrest clarifies in her subsequent Memorandum Opinion and Order that by enjoining enforcement of § 1021(b)(2), the only remaining persons the law can be applied to are those defined in § 1021(b)(1): “A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.” This definition of covered persons is the same as the one given in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress following the September 11 attacks (see September 14-18, 2001). The Supreme Court has only ruled on a narrow range of relevant detention issues; one oft-cited case is Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (see June 28, 2004). Lower courts have produced a variety of opinions, some upholding an expansive view of detention authorities, others challenging it. In § 1021 of the NDAA, Congress asserted that it “affirms” detention authority granted under the AUMF, and does not “expand… the scope of the [AUMF].” Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), during a debate on the NDAA, explained the language in this way: “[W]e make clear whatever the law is. It is unaffected by this language in our bill” (see December 15, 2011). Congress included a separate, broader definition of covered persons in § 1021(b)(2) that potentially covered anyone alleged by the government to have supported groups hostile to the US, including US citizens arrested in the United States. This section is what prompted Hedges to sue, alleging these provisions violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights (see January 13, 2012). Forrest found the bill’s broad and vague provisions for indefinite military detention to be unconstitutional, and Congress’s statement that it was only affirming established law to be “contrary to basic principles of legislative interpretation that require Congressional enactments to be given independent meaning” (see May 16, 2012). [MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: Hedges et al v. Obama 12 Civ. 331 (KBF) affirming preliminary injunction and scope, 6/6/2012]
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