ANALYSIS | On Saturday, as many Americans were busy preparing themselves for the ringing in of 2012, President Barack Obama was busy signing into law the controversial National Defense Authorization Act. The bill, which was debated with heated fervor, is considered by some, including members of Congress, to be legislation that crosses the boundaries of the United States' Constitution.
President Obama, himself, had originally threatened to veto the bill, if language that would have precluded Americans from being subjected to indefinite detention was not removed. The bill's co-sponsor, Michigan Senator Carl Levin also stated that it was, in fact, the Obama administration which demanded that language specifying U.S. citizens and lawful resident aliens would be exempt from the indefinite detention provision be removed.
The provision, though touted as a necessary inclusion to benefit the war on terror, has come under immense scrutiny as its language sets the stage for American citizens to be detained, arrested and potentially dealt with by use of extreme prejudice, for the mere assertion the one may be involved in potential terrorist activity. The potential, some fear, will do away with the requirements of probable cause, Miranda rights and the right to a fair trial.
In his signing statement, President Obama stated that despite having "serious reservations," the bill was deemed too important not to sign into law. Furthermore, administration officials stated publicly that the final version of the bill was not consistent with the position of the White House.
According to Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, the bill seals Obama's legacy as the president who legalized indefinite detention without trial or cause. The ACLU also voices a similar opinion, stating that the bill damages America's reputation for upholding the rule of law."
What is left to be unfurled, by the American public, are the potential future complications caused by such an open-ended piece of legislation. While many view the world's current standing as removed from immediate threat to Constitutional rights, the provision allows for a multitude of interpretive change, as future administrations enter and leave political power.
It is for these fears, alone, that many feel the disenfranchisement of voters will escalate in response.