Buried in the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2012 — Section 1021 to be precise — is a clause that gives the president the power to order the military to indefinitely detain anyone suspected of terrorism, including American citizens.
Ironically, this law passed the Senate on the 220th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. It flies in the face of a legal right that dates back to the June 15, 1215, signing of the Magna Carta by King John of England, the right of Habeas Corpus, which requires the state to prove to a judge that a person’s detention is lawful.
On Wednesday, the Ohio House of Representatives took a stand against this provision of the NDAA with passage of House Concurrent Resolution 41, which urges the Attorney General of Ohio to bring a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the law. The resolution passed 94 to 2.
The resolution states the correct belief that the NDAA violates numerous sections of the U.S. Constitution, most notably Article I, Section 9, and the First, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th Amendments.
“We often reflect on the rights and freedoms for which so many Americans have fought and sacrificed,” said one of the sponsors, Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood. “One of the most fundamental of those freedoms is that our government cannot lock you in prison without first proving your guilt at trial before a jury of your peers. These dangerous provisions of the NDAA have potential to be used for tyranny by a future president and are patently unconstitutional.”
“The actions our government has taken in the NDAA call into question the very rights and freedoms that we all hold so dear” said another sponsor, Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy Township. “If government bureaucracies and enforcement arms have the power to indefinitely detain and imprison U.S. citizens without filing formal charges, then all of our freedoms and all of our rights are on the chopping block. These unconstitutional and dictatorial provisions of the NDAA must be resisted with all the energy and power of the state of Ohio.”
Butler and Young are also sponsors of House Bill 354, which states that no state resource shall be used to aid the federal government in indefinitely detaining any person in Ohio. It also prevents state and local law enforcement officials from assisting the U.S. military in any investigation, prosecution, or detention that may deprive residents of Ohio to the right to trial if imprisoned.
While supporters of Section 1021 claim the law exempts U.S. citizens, that is not correct.
What the law actually does is mandate that the military detain suspected terrorists or those who aid terrorists and hold them without charges or trial at the discretion of the president.
The “exemption” provision, meanwhile, simply removes the mandate when it comes to U.S. citizens. It does not, however, remove the authorization for the military to detain American citizens. In other words, it does not preclude U.S. citizens from being detained indefinitely, without charge or trial, it simply makes such detention discretionary.
Four of our region’s six representatives were co-sponsors: Matt Huffman, R-Lima; John Adams, R-Sidney; Jim Buchy, R-Greenville; and Robert Sprague, R-Findlay. While not co-sponsors, Rep. Tony Burkley, R-Payne, and Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, voted for the measure.
Giving the military the power to indefinitely detain American citizens is anathema to what America stands for. The Ohio House — and our own representatives — should be applauded for passing this resolution and it should next pass House Bill 354.