Idaho (PT) – A legislative battle is brewing within the halls of the Idaho State Government over the rights of millions. It centers around the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the indefinite detention without charges or a trial by the American government of people internationally. In Idaho, however, state politicians and activists are introducing a bill to protect its citizens from NDAA abuses.
H.R. 1540, or the National Defense Authorization Act, is a decades old tool for balancing military budget. In 2011, the Obama Administration amended the bill adding significant powers to the American government to monitor, detain, and interrogate. NDAA set a disturbing precedent in a time ripe with leaks of illegal operations against American citizens.
For that reason, President Obama’s assurances that Americans were safe rang hallow. “The fact that I support this bill as a whole,” President Obama said during an address on NDAA, “does not mean I agree with everything in it.” In a press release to Pontiac PANDA (People Against the National Defense Act) notes that the NDAA “Has gotten so big over the years it’s too long for anyone to read.” For that reason PANDA believes the bill, “…became a prime candidate to sneak un-constitutional provisions into while no one is paying attention.”
Like the recent vote on Section 702—another sweeping surveillance bill—NDAA passed with massive government approval. According to PANDA’s release, a 93-7 Senate vote and another going 283-136 in the House sealed the deal under President Barack Obama. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fought the NDAA then, as it is now. Back in the summer of 2017, an American was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria then transferred to the Department of Defense. The individual was captured near Raqqa, accused of fighting for the Islamic State. After months of battling ACLU, the Trump Administration finally allowed the American to get a lawyer. However, that only happened after Trump officials argued they didn’t need to grant this American constitutional rights.
PANDA’s national director Jason Casella called this kind of detention under NDAA “Un-Consitutional, and un-American.” He notes. “Without the right to a trial, we have no rights. Our founders believed so firmly in the right to trial by jury that they enshrined it in the body of the Constitution, and again in the Sixth Amendment.” Casella is deeply entrenched in Idaho’s legislative measures against the NDAA, applauding the “non-partisan” support.
According to a summary of the Idaho bill—Restoring Constitutional Governance Act of Idaho (H473)—the state’s legislator argued Idaho is not, “A battlefield subject to the laws of war. Neither congress nor the president of the United States can constitutionally apply the laws of war.” to Idaho citizens, even if they’re in the military. It bars the federal government from subjecting Idahoans to the laws of war with NDAA, or any similar bill. The world is not a free-reign battlefield and until it becomes one, Idaho isn’t playing along.
What about when these tactics come home, like the Dakota Access Pipeline protests? The 2016 act of civil disobedience saw the arrest of dozens of protesters and journalists, sometimes without clear charge. Surveillance and militarized authorities became common place and afterward, the government recommended more of this approach.
Some states are following suit and making protesting more difficult, police responses heavier, and detainment more sweeping. Most recently, the idea of “collateral arrests” for immigrants not targeted by an original operation was introduced for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids. With these tactics increasingly encroaching citizen’s rights, the bill introduced in Idaho is timely and imperative. “Especially in an election year.” Says PANDA National Director Jason Casella. Representatives must be on the right side of history.
“The people are watching,” he told Pontiac, “and have extended an olive branch for each elected representative to do the right thing and honor the oath they took to protect and defend the constitution.” Although PANDA’s Idaho bill has been introduced, there’s still a lot of work to be done. PANDA’s fight presents as something that affects all Americans, facing down an issue transcending presidential administrations. The protections for Idaho citizens it aims to establish could spread, state by state, across the country.