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Sprat Issue 30 – Military Detentions

By James Donahue

The writer identifying himself as Jack Sprat lists a problem of changes in police and military detention techniques among his list of 57 concerns. And it is true that since former President George W. Bush and his gang declared the government’s invisible war against anybody suspected of possible "terrorist" activities, lawmakers have given both agencies unprecedented powers of detention that clearly violate our Constitutional Bill of Rights.

By definition, detention is a process of holding a person against their will and removing their freedom of liberty. This used to always involve criminal charges or, with done by the military, it involved holding enemy soldiers as "prisoners of war." It was always done under the rules set by a court of law so that the accused prisoner was never denied the right to a fair hearing, better known among lawyers as due process.

Since 9-11 and the declaration of "war on terrorism," the United States has adopted a controversial system of indefinite detention of so-called "enemy combatants" under the laws of war. Even though the nation as never declared war against cells of terrorist operatives, the military has seen fit to detain captured suspects and apply the laws of war when keeping them locked in military prison facilities like Guantanamo, Cuba and not granting them a criminal trial.

Even more frightening has been passage of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2011 which gives the U.S. military the power to arrest and detain, without charges or trial, anyone suspected of terrorism anywhere in the world . . . including American citizens. There are two alarming parts to this act that appear to be in total violation of the Constitutional rights of Americans. It appears to give the military the power to act against American citizens even on American soil. It also fails to give a clear definition of a terrorist act. It merely describes such an act as being "engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."

This could mean that a person speaking or writing publically against the actions of our president, the Congress or the U.S. military could be detained as a possible terrorist. Army Private Bradley Manning, accused to releasing classified military documents to the controversial publication Wikileaks, has been detained without due process under this very system. Efforts have been underway to capture and arrest the Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, an Australian who has sought political asylum in Ecuador.

The dreaded Patriot Act, passed by legislators within weeks after 9-11, gave police agencies, the FBI, the Secret Service and CIA the authority to tap into electronic communications of American citizens without seeking court orders. Also since that event, police agencies have been more and more militant in the treatment of citizens caught up in public protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street.

Most Americans didn’t expect President Barack Obama to go along with the detention precedents established by the outgoing Bush/Cheney Administration, mostly because of his promise as a candidate to close Guantanamo after taking office. Not only did he fail to keep that promise, but Mr. Obama now fights court cases attempting to block section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act that gives the military the power to arrest American citizens, even on U. S. soil.

As the Middle Eastern conflicts heat up, and America finds itself under Islamic attacks from all sides, the Obama Administration argues that it needs to maintain the power to indefinitely detain people for the sake of national security.

Yes, Mr. Sprat, the shifts in the laws that now allow the military and even our police force to control, arrest and detain American citizens without due process is an issue of deep concern.