I never thought much about the “Indefinite Military Detention Bill” before because I was positive that President Obama would never sign such a bill, nevertheless, that Republicans and Democrats would ever come to an agreement to allow its passage in the Senate (both because of the polarization of politics, and its trespassing of our Constitutional Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights). After studying the impact 9/11 has had on the Muslim community, reading about the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and now with Bradley Manning’s trial approaching, I’m frankly afraid for this country. If the “Indefinite Military Detention”, or National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is signed by President Obama, US citizens could be detained indefinitely if they’re suspected of engaging in terrorism. Detained indefinitely meaning that Due Process and Habeus Corpus will be obsolete if you are suspected of associated with/being a terrorist.
We’ve seen such actions taken place in the past–The Japanese Internment camps after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the Red Scare when Communists were put on a black list and persecuted for any connections with communism, etc. But what many Americans do not realize is how fear politics still exists today through the unfair detention of hundreds of Muslims and even Bradley Manning on alleged espionage and aiding and abetting the enemy charges. Historically, when the United States is operating in an atmosphere of fear the government tends to ignore and bypass constitutional rights. This was especially the case after 9/11. After the twin tower terrorist attacks conducted by Saudi Arabian Al Qaeda members, tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants were forced through “Special Registration” to admit they had outstayed their visas and were living in the US undocumented, leaving the Government with the power to deport any of these families at a whim. Either you special register with the INS (or now known as ICE, immigration customs enforcement) of your status in the United States, or you don’t–And risk breaking another law which will hurt any citizenship/visas process you may be in. Obviously a majority chose to not break the law and register with the Government.
In total, researchers have estimated over 70,000 young Muslim men registered with the Government, and their files are still available to the FBI, which has made the PATRIOT Act easy to execute. After 9/11, this meant if the Government had any suspicion that you may have been connected with terrorist activities or have an association with any terrorists and could not prove it with substantial evidence they could just get rid of the “problem” by deporting you. Many INS/FBI agents used the immigrant status of these Muslim Americans to bring them to court, detain them indefinitely (which was possible through the Detention Without Charge act passed two weeks after 9/11 which allowed indefinite detention in emergency situations) and then find/search for evidence to use against them that would show/allude how they were suspected with terrorism. The evidence used most often was there strong religious beliefs. It’s estimated that over 1,000 Muslim Americans were detained from months to a year without charges other than “links to terrorism” without Due Process or Habeus Corpus. As read in books such as Zeitoun , How Does it Feel to be a Problem?, We Are All Suspects Now, this left Muslim Americans with long-lasting trauma of being tortured in jail, separated from families, and even growing resentment toward what they had once believed was the land of the free.
Indefinite detention of Muslims has since subdued since 9/11.However, through Guantanamo Bay terrorist suspects continue to have their human rights breached even today. This is the result of the “Military Commission Act” of 2006, which casts aside Habeas Corpus to whomever the President (signed by President Bush at the time) deems “War of Terror” suspects. This includes US citizens. The NDAA will expand the Gitmo like treatment and the Military commission Act (which was re-passed in 2009). Bradley Manning is a sampling of the Indefinite Military Detention bill; as a US citizen, Manning has been subjected to solitary confinement and indefinite detainment because of the serious allegations against him. His trial date is (finally) approaching soon. Manning was treated “special” in comparison to anyone else who has been accused of a crime because of the severity of his, however the US Constitution does not specify when the Government can turn on and off Constitutional Rights. When bills like the Military Commission Act, and NDAA are passed, I wonder if the Senate and House should treat these legislation as Constitutional Amendments, because if they really abide the Constitution what’s going on is not constitutional.
If this “Indefinite Military Detention Bill” is signed by President Obama, I fear that many more Muslims, and whistle-blowers like Manning will be imprisoned without any of their Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights.
If you are Muslim American, Arab, anyone resembling a “terrorist”, then I would especially be afraid that the Indefinite Military Detention Bill could be a threat to your rights. Legislative acts like the NDAA only perpetuate how Muslims and Middle-Easterners in the US are treated guilty, until proven innocence. Nevertheless, instead of putting our attention into prosecuting Bradley Manning for releasing confidential files, maybe the Government should be investigating those files too, which have revealed monumental social injustices. As we are ending the war in Iraq and hopefully Afghanistan soon, we must begin reconstructing our relationship with the Muslim people around the world and especially in the United States, instead of continuing to otherize them through unfair practices that will always target, and threaten them disproportionately. We can do this through beginning to investigate wrong-doings revealed through Wikileaks, and to start treating Muslims in the US equally under the law.
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