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The Indefinite Detention of Citizens and Non-Citizens Under the NDAA

Last week was the tenth anniversary of the military prison at Guantanamo, with newspapers dutifully marking the occasion with “Guantanamo at Ten” columns, op-eds and blog posts. A handful of papers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Miami Herald, even ran editorials calling for the prison’s closure.

It was a blip in media exposure for the 171 prisoners at the facility, who have otherwise been largely forgotten.  Guantanamo has fallen off the headlines in the last couple of years, attracting minimal journalistic scrutiny and scant public interest. Few Americans seem to care that the facility is still open and an even smaller number are actively pressing for it to close.

The lack of concern is unfortunate.  It is especially troubling given that indefinite detention without charge—the issue that Guantanamo embodies—has generated heated debate in recent months.

The Indefinite Detention of US Citizens

The passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a federal statute essentially meant to codify the Guantanamo approach to justice, evoked a fair measure of outrage and alarm. Right wing radio announcer Rush Limbaugh condemned the new law as “total authoritarianism,” and liberal law professor Jonathan Turley warned that it was “one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country” — an unusual and possibly unprecedented coincidence of views.  Online petition sites are overflowing with calls for the NDAA’s repeal, at least one of which has tens of thousands of signatories, and some are even demanding the recall of the “treasonous” members of Congress who voted for the legislation.

But most of the op-eds, editorials, and blog posts denouncing the detention provisions of the NDAA had little to say about the Yemenis, Afghans, Kuwaitis and other non-US citizens who have been held at Guantanamo for the past decade.  Turley’s jeremiad did not even mention Guantanamo; nor did Limbaugh, in his radio harangue.

The civil liberties issue that has resonated with the American public is the possibility that American citizens suspected of terrorism could be picked up by US military forces and held indefinitely without charge.  This is a non-trivial concern, at least in the long term, given the language of the relevant provisions of the NDAA, which does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens; given post-9/11 detention practices (US citizen Jose Padilla was arrested in Chicago in 2002 and held in military custody for three-and-a-half years without charge), and given the unsettled state of Supreme Court precedent on these questions.

But the theoretical possibility that an American citizen could be held indefinitely pales, in real human terms, next to the indisputable fact that 171 non-citizens remain behind bars at Guantanamo, all but five of them without formal charge. (Four prisoners have been convicted and one is facing terrorism and other charges.)

Whatever the NDAA may mean for Americans—and I should be clear that I think it is very bad news—it is worse for non-citizens. It was clearly designed to obstruct Guantanamo’s closure, to coerce President Obama into using military options when dealing with non-citizens suspected of terrorism, if not force him to do so, and to raise the political and procedural costs of relying on the civilian justice system.

The Indefinite Detention of Non-Citizens

Americans are not the only ones who cherish liberty.  The families of the 171 men detained without charge at Guantanamo, though they have no electoral means to influence US policy and little sway with the US public, believe their loved ones deserve a fair process for adjudicating their guilt or innocence.

Think about it.  Are you outraged at the thought of being held without charge by your own government?  Now consider being held indefinitely by someone else’s government.

Joanne MarinerJoanne Mariner, a Justia columnist, is the director of Hunter College's Human Rights Program. She is an expert on human rights, counterterrorism, and international humanitarian law. She is the author of the Human Rights Watch report, No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons. She is a co-author of the new Human Rights Watch report, “In the Name of Security: Counterterrorism Laws Worldwide since September 11.”
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  • Eli Blackhouse

    Well put. Of course, the U.S. “mental health” system — as corruptly administered by the respective States to skirt habeas corpus and the purview of the courts — already represents a radical and profoundly un-Constitutional departure from the alleged U.S. “norms” of freedom from unlawful restraint and unwarranted detainment by one’s own government. In Maine, for instance, it is, in fact, the case that the Department of “Behavioral Health” and other corrupt extensions of “Human Services” feel free to detain private citizens entirely without the oversight of any court. Whether or not any individual is targeted for such abuse simply depends upon the income-level and degree of connectedness held by each potential target, as well as his or her ability (or inability) to network successfully for adequate legal protection from said abuse. The Maine courts would not recognize Habeas corpus or Constitutional protections if it slapped them in the face, and if they did manage to figure it out, they simply wouldn’t care. The corrupt psychiatrists — eager to defend their “profession” and political cronies by accusing whistle-blowers and medical crime victims of being mentally unwell — protect themselves from exposure and prosecution by ordering at-home abductions, or the abductions and confinement of abuse victims made vulnerable — and often homeless — by the medical machine that now knows well that the local cops simply follow “doctors’ orders” and that the courts are barely around to care about anyone accused of being “mentally ill” in any event.  This way, the abuse of crime witnesses who possess information damning of the police or medical oligarchy are simply shut up in abusive mental hospitals until they are silenced for good. Think it doesn’t happen to the extent I’m expressing here? Take a look at the backgrounds of some of the people attempting to file Federal lawsuits against Maine’s monstrosity of a “social services” system. These are not individuals desperate for Help in the way that “mental health” proponents — liberal or otherwise — would lead us to think:  they are scholars and humanitarians who are being targeted by Big Pharmaceutical’s human-trafficking and money-laundering rings, organized crime syndicates that have handily figured out that tax-supported Soviet-style “psychiatry” — by nature of its invention, as well as the manner in which it disables Constitutional protections (not to mention its victims) — presents an easy alternative to having to confront founded abuse accusations (e.g., against corrupt business, police, and public officials) in the Maine and Federal courts. In Maine, at least — and it is unlikely to differ throughout the 50 states — a psychiatrist’s opinion is viewed as sacrosanct, which is an unlawful, anti-Constitutional premise structurally similar to that adopted by the operators of Gunatanamo. I mention “the Maine problem” — here in my response to Ms. Mariner’s NDAA article — because fighting the detainment of foreign nationals at Guantanamo – and what,  if left unopposed,  is sure to become a succession of deliberately unlawful (not to menton morally horrific) detention camps — should include a public assailing of the byzantine (and, simply put, neo-Nazi) “mental health” system presently amok in this sorry excuse for a democracy. Both efforts should result in the closure of any facility, nationwide, in which Constitutional rights are readily elided by psychiatric nurses and other criminals who have learned how to lose paperwork and commit other “mistakes” designed to result in the permanent disabling of targeted victims — by way of indefinite periods of extra-judicial confinement and the unspeakable terror of psychiatric abuse — who would otherwise provide public testimony that would shed the kind of damning light on U.S.-based police and medical corruption that is both long overdue and so very richly deserved.

  • Eli Blackhouse

    Well put. Of course, the U.S. “mental health” system — as corruptly administered by the respective States to skirt habeas corpus and the purview of the courts — already represents a radical and profoundly un-Constitutional departure from the alleged U.S. “norms” of freedom from unlawful restraint and unwarranted detainment by one’s own government. In Maine, for instance, it is, in fact, the case that the Department of “Behavioral Health” and other corrupt extensions of “Human Services” feel free to detain private citizens entirely without the oversight of any court. Whether or not any individual is targeted for such abuse simply depends upon the income-level and degree of connectedness held by each potential target, as well as his or her ability (or inability) to network successfully for adequate legal protection from said abuse. The Maine courts would not recognize Habeas corpus or Constitutional protections if it slapped them in the face, and if they did manage to figure it out, they simply wouldn’t care. The corrupt psychiatrists — eager to defend their “profession” and political cronies by accusing whistle-blowers and medical crime victims of being mentally unwell — protect themselves from exposure and prosecution by ordering at-home abductions, or the abductions and confinement of abuse victims made vulnerable — and often homeless — by the medical machine that now knows well that the local cops simply follow “doctors’ orders” and that the courts are barely around to care about anyone accused of being “mentally ill” in any event.  This way, the abuse of crime witnesses who possess information damning of the police or medical oligarchy are simply shut up in abusive mental hospitals until they are silenced for good. Think it doesn’t happen to the extent I’m expressing here? Take a look at the backgrounds of some of the people attempting to file Federal lawsuits against Maine’s monstrosity of a “social services” system. These are not individuals desperate for Help in the way that “mental health” proponents — liberal or otherwise — would lead us to think:  they are scholars and humanitarians who are being targeted by Big Pharmaceutical’s human-trafficking and money-laundering rings, organized crime syndicates that have handily figured out that tax-supported Soviet-style “psychiatry” — by nature of its invention, as well as the manner in which it disables Constitutional protections (not to mention its victims) — presents an easy alternative to having to confront founded abuse accusations (e.g., against corrupt business, police, and public officials) in the Maine and Federal courts. In Maine, at least — and it is unlikely to differ throughout the 50 states — a psychiatrist’s opinion is viewed as sacrosanct, which is an unlawful, anti-Constitutional premise structurally similar to that adopted by the operators of Gunatanamo. I mention “the Maine problem” — here in my response to Ms. Mariner’s NDAA article — because fighting the detainment of foreign nationals at Guantanamo – and what,  if left unopposed,  is sure to become a succession of deliberately unlawful (not to menton morally horrific) detention camps — should include a public assailing of the byzantine (and, simply put, neo-Nazi) “mental health” system presently amok in this sorry excuse for a democracy. Both efforts should result in the closure of any facility, nationwide, in which Constitutional rights are readily elided by psychiatric nurses and other criminals who have learned how to lose paperwork and commit other “mistakes” designed to result in the permanent disabling of targeted victims — by way of indefinite periods of extra-judicial confinement and the unspeakable terror of psychiatric abuse — who would otherwise provide public testimony that would shed the kind of damning light on U.S.-based police and medical corruption that is both long overdue and so very richly deserved.

  • Eli Blackhouse

    Well put. Of course, the U.S. “mental health” system — as corruptly administered by the respective States to skirt habeas corpus and the purview of the courts — already represents a radical and profoundly un-Constitutional departure from the alleged U.S. “norms” of freedom from unlawful restraint and unwarranted detainment by one’s own government. In Maine, for instance, it is, in fact, the case that the Department of “Behavioral Health” and other corrupt extensions of “Human Services” feel free to detain private citizens entirely without the oversight of any court. Whether or not any individual is targeted for such abuse simply depends upon the income-level and degree of connectedness held by each potential target, as well as his or her ability (or inability) to network successfully for adequate legal protection from said abuse. The Maine courts would not recognize Habeas corpus or Constitutional protections if it slapped them in the face, and if they did manage to figure it out, they simply wouldn’t care. The corrupt psychiatrists — eager to defend their “profession” and political cronies by accusing whistle-blowers and medical crime victims of being mentally unwell — protect themselves from exposure and prosecution by ordering at-home abductions, or the abductions and confinement of abuse victims made vulnerable — and often homeless — by the medical machine that now knows well that the local cops simply follow “doctors’ orders” and that the courts are barely around to care about anyone accused of being “mentally ill” in any event.  This way, the abuse of crime witnesses who possess information damning of the police or medical oligarchy are simply shut up in abusive mental hospitals until they are silenced for good. Think it doesn’t happen to the extent I’m expressing here? Take a look at the backgrounds of some of the people attempting to file Federal lawsuits against Maine’s monstrosity of a “social services” system. These are not individuals desperate for Help in the way that “mental health” proponents — liberal or otherwise — would lead us to think:  they are scholars and humanitarians who are being targeted by Big Pharmaceutical’s human-trafficking and money-laundering rings, organized crime syndicates that have handily figured out that tax-supported Soviet-style “psychiatry” — by nature of its invention, as well as the manner in which it disables Constitutional protections (not to mention its victims) — presents an easy alternative to having to confront founded abuse accusations (e.g., against corrupt business, police, and public officials) in the Maine and Federal courts. In Maine, at least — and it is unlikely to differ throughout the 50 states — a psychiatrist’s opinion is viewed as sacrosanct, which is an unlawful, anti-Constitutional premise structurally similar to that adopted by the operators of Gunatanamo. I mention “the Maine problem” — here in my response to Ms. Mariner’s NDAA article — because fighting the detainment of foreign nationals at Guantanamo – and what,  if left unopposed,  is sure to become a succession of deliberately unlawful (not to menton morally horrific) detention camps — should include a public assailing of the byzantine (and, simply put, neo-Nazi) “mental health” system presently amok in this sorry excuse for a democracy. Both efforts should result in the closure of any facility, nationwide, in which Constitutional rights are readily elided by psychiatric nurses and other criminals who have learned how to lose paperwork and commit other “mistakes” designed to result in the permanent disabling of targeted victims — by way of indefinite periods of extra-judicial confinement and the unspeakable terror of psychiatric abuse — who would otherwise provide public testimony that would shed the kind of damning light on U.S.-based police and medical corruption that is both long overdue and so very richly deserved.

 

Access this column at http://j.st/n9P