The NDAA: The biggest issue no one is talking about this election
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison. Obama campaigned during his first run on promising to close Guantanamo, and that promise has remained unfulfilled. In fact, he has approved life imprisonment without trial for 42 of those detained. He claims he remains committed to closing Guantanamo and has received much protest from Congress over concerns of the dangers of releasing those still held captive. Just two months ago, he passed a law placing even stricter restrictions on transferring any detainees out of Guantanamo. Perhaps this is why those deemed innocent years ago are still serving time or died waiting to be released. 171 people still remain in Guantanamo, and 89 have been cleared for release but still remain in custody.
Not only has Obama left his promise unfulfilled, but Guantanamo is something we should be asking both candidates about: it is in fact the most expensive prison on Earth. It costs US taxpayers $800,000 annually to house EACH captive. This is more than 30 times the cost of imprisoning those on US soil. We also employ 1,850 different people to maintain the facility. Obama has approved $2 million worth of computer improvements and the guard force commander is getting a new 5,000 square-foot headquarters at about $750,000.
The names of those kept in captivity have been refused for release, though just last month we finally received the names of 55 of those held captive that have been released. Obama, however, has denied any and all transfers of innocent captives back to their home country, Yemen, and so those remain unlisted this time. Most of these 55 imprisoned men have spent 11 years imprisoned at Guantanamo without charge or trial, despite unanimous assessment and approval for their release or transfer. Those left unlisted? Also still without charge or trial. Adnan Farhan Abdul was found dead in cell last month, despite being ordered release back in 2010.
What does all of this have to do with our current elections? More than you can imagine. Not only is it another promise left unfulfilled by Obama, but I believe it is something the American people should be outraged about. Innocent foreigners are being held in poor conditions for more than a decade of their life, some of them being as young as 15 when incarcerated. It is under our president and our government’s watch that these people have suffered and died wrongly. This is something we as Americans should consider an insult to our love of democracy and equality. But it doesn’t just stop there- the government, under Obama’s approval , has moved forward with intentions to allow the same type of imprisonment for American citizens.
Last New Year’s Eve, Obama signed into law the NDAA for 2012. He mentioned concern for a specific section, labeled 1021; but still signed it into law. Section 2012 of the NDAA states that the Congress allows the President to use all necessary military force to detain any person indefinitely, without charge or trial, if suspected of terrorism. It does not rule out US citizens. What does this mean for us? It means that our right to freedom is now on the same level as those detained in Guantanamo for 11 years without charge or trial. We can be held in military prisons indefinitely for simply being accused of being sympathetic to terrorists.
Of course, this is nothing to worry about for us regular Americans, right? None of us are terrorists! But, I beg to differ. The US government has continued to expand their definitions of terrorism to such an extent that I consider myself at risk for being deemed a terrorist by the US government. Take a look at the list of behaviors and beliefs now considered terroristic in nature and ask yourself the same question. We already have examples of veterans being detained by the government for Facebook posts about 9/11 conspiracies and high school students being questioned by the FBI for supporting Ron Paul. A man had to serve 30 days in jail for collecting rainwater, and three 20-somethings are imprisoned right now for being put on trial for possessing anarchic literature and refusing to testify. You can legally be pulled over for having Right-Wing or Libertarian bumper stickers, and a man’s house was searched unlawfully and led out of his house at gunpoint for being a “Constitutionalist”.
Where do we draw the line? We assume we have nothing to fear as long as we do nothing wrong; but when the government’s definition of threat changes, and they are given unlawful power to detain us, we have much to fear. I personally look at Guantanamo and wonder if it is a preview of the detention of American citizens we may face in the coming months and years. Obama has signed such a law into place and Romney has also said he would have signed the NDAA into law. This crucial issue is not up for debate because both candidates support it. Only 37 members of our Congress voted against the NDAA. Where are our voices in this?
The majority of those arrested and detained at Guantanamo have had nothing to do with terrorist activities. It would be foolish of us to expect the government’s handling of such power on US soil to be any more honest. The media no longer talks about Guantanamo, and Obama’s supporters seem to have forgotten his promise to release those wrongly detained. Those that do try to confront the issue are rejected; much like the reporter that was kicked out of the democratic convention for asking about Drone warfare. The candidates fill our thoughts with concerns about killing imaginary creatures like Big Bird, while behind the scenes they still detain foreign innocents and are passing laws allowing the detainment of innocent Americans.
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