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The End of Liberty? Obama Plans To Enshrine Indefinite Detention Into Law

Call me old-fashioned but I still believe the primary role of government is to protect our liberty. The Framers believed this was the government’s role and it was for quite some time.

But if protecting liberty is the primary goal of government then with passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, government has become a complete and utter failure—as has the Obama Administration.

I wrote a few weeks back about how the NDAA codifies the belief, held by former President Bush and now President Obama, that the U.S. government can arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely (without charging them with a crime) if they BELIEVE the citizen is a terrorist.

Think about that for a second. Because it is extraordinary.

What does indefinite detention mean? When U.S. citizen Jose Padilla was arrested on suspicions of plotting a dirty bomb attack, the Bush Administration transferred him to a military prison where he sat for 3 and ½ years without any communication with his family, a lawyer, or the outside world. After civil liberty groups attacked his detention in court, the government finally relented by transferring him to a regular jail and charging him criminal conspiracy to to fund and support overseas terrorism.

The important is what was not charged. Padilla was never charged with plotting a dirty bomb attack—the original reason for his indefinite detention.

Padilla was ultimately convicted in regular federal criminal court and sentenced to 17 years. So there is no argument that the government could not have treated him according to our constitution protections—by charging him with a crime and convicting him with due process.

What the Padilla example shows is that already government has mistakenly detained a U.S. citizen on a ground that they were unable to prove. They basically locked up a guy incommunicado for over 3 years on some pretty flimsy evidence.

Does this make you feel better about the new indefinite detention provision?

In signing the NDAA, President Obama will have the dubious distinction of codifying a deliberate end-run around one of our fundamental views of liberty. It will be a sad day for America.

And for those of you who don’t believe how sad the day will be, you need to read the articles by Glenn Greenwald over at Salon (here and here),  Andrew Sullivan, and the New York Times.


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Articles posted in the Cockle Blog are for informational purposes only. Nothing in the Cockle Blog should be taken for legal advice. In fact, Cockle Blog articles are not a substitute for proper legal research conducted by licensed attorneys.

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