Yesterday the House approved the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Senate is likely to do the same today. There is a possibility that the president will sign it, but he might veto it, and things have come to a pretty pass when I am hoping that Obama will protect us from the Republicans.
What the bill does is grant the government indefinite detention powers over someone accused of terrorist activity, even if that person is an American citizen and the whole thing went down on American soil. Correction -- we know the accused is an American citizen. What we don't know is whether anything actually went down on American soil. All we have is the government's word that it did, and on the strength of that word, somebody can be whisked away, locked up, and nobody needs to prove anything. Ever.
Now let me be reasonable here. I understand the tangled legal issues when an American citizen heads over to Yemen in order to start his DeathtotheGreatSatan.com. I understand the legal issues when an American tries to light the fuse on his sneakers mid-flight while yelling inspirational phrases from the Koran. I get the fact that there is a difference between true enemy combatants and a shoplifter at the mall. So I do believe that the libertarians falsely underestimate the threat that bona fide Islamic terrorism poses to us.
But I do not believe that the libertarians underestimate the threat that our overweening government represents to us. Scale of 1 to 10, how concerned am I that Muslim terrorists are going to successfully do something really bad to me or to my family? Oh, 1 or 2. Same scale, how concerned am I that the federal government is going to do something really bad to me or to my family? More like a 6 or 7, and I am not counting the bad things they are engaged in doing right this minute.
Surely the government will use this power responsibly and wisely, right? Right . . . who would oversee this whole thing? What department would be responsible? Ah . . . the same guys who came up with Fast and Furious? No problem then. I drop my objections. I can see now that I was just being silly.