National Defense Authorization Act: Power for Endless War?
The ACLU is bringing awareness to a little-known “sleeper provision” that will give the US executive branch power to wage war anywhere and everywhere against terrorism.
Over the years, more and more power to wage war has been concentrated in the hands of the President and the executive branch. The deliberative power of the House and Senate to debate the pros and cons of war has gradually eroded.
That erosion is apparently intensifying with the National Defense Authorization Act. This time, however, it is not the President who is claiming or asking for the power, but the House and Senate which are granting it quite willingly. And, of course, to uncover the “sleeper provision,” as the ACLU has termed it, one must withstand an onslaught of legislative technical writing to penetrate toward the truth.
Here is the provision:
Congress affirms that —
(1) the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
(2) the President has the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note);
(3) the current armed conflict includes nations, organization, and persons who—
(A) are part of, or are substantially supporting, al‐Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or
(B) have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A); and
(4) the President’s authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority to detain belligerents, including persons described in paragraph
(3), until the termination of hostilities.
Naturally, conspiracy theorists are conflating this with the ability to wage war against US citizens, but it seems quite clear in the above provision that it is limited to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated forces.” (Unless, of course, US citizens join al-Qaeda or Taliban, becoming homegrown terrorists.)
Now, if the Department of Defense is moving about inside America’s borders, than that is another question. As it was in Rome, the military should not be allowed to carry out operations within America. It is their job to defend the borders.
The provision was added by Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and fellow California Rep. , Rep. John Garamendi (D) put forth an amendment to strike Sec. 1034, but withdraw it. According to the ACLU, Garamendi plans to reintroduce it so it can undergo a more complete and critical debate.
Read the full text of the National Defense Authorization Act here.