In the course of legislative action, a dichotomy always surfaces between the problem a bill hopes to tackle and the manner in which the bill might be used in future. The Patriot Act is a prime example of how a law written to combat terrorism is now used domestically to spy on Americans. For instance, it allows our government to demand and receive (quite easily) AOL chat logs or Twitter data without our knowledge.
The latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gives the U.S. president the power to indefinitely detain Americans both at home and abroad. Opposition to the overarching bill is well-established, particularly from the ACLU.
“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU’s executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.”
Now, President Obama claimed he signed the bill with reservations about the indefinite detention, and assured Americans he would not use the provision during his presidency. That is all well and good, but this will not stop future presidents, especially a potentially strong, ideological president of the Nixonian or Bush variety, from using the new NDAA provision in Orwellian ways.
The American people do have the power of the courts to check the NDAA provision, but if such a case ultimately heads to the Supreme Court, don’t expect the conservative majority to rule it unconstitutional.
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