Last week, the Senate quietly voted in favor of the bill H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012. The bill includes controversial new language that could in theory allow the military to detain and arrest anyone in the world, including American citizens on American soil, and then be indefinitely detained without trial. Now Anonymous has warned the Senate that it can “expect us.”
Although the United States Congress has made far more headlines this year through what it hasn’t done rather than what it has, there is a new controversy brewing in Washington over the NDAA’s new provision. The NDAA is a bill that comes up for review annually, and is generally passed without much issue to make sure that the military continues to receive necessary funds. It is occasionally debated in the House and Senate, but rarely faces much serious opposition before being approved at the end of each year, as it has been for the last 48 years. This year’s act was no different, and it was pushed through the Senate, passing with bi-partisan support and a 93-7 vote tally.
Included in the bill though was a controversial new amendment found in Section 1031 of the bill, which increases the military’s scope in combating terrorism.
The changes allow the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, anywhere that is deemed a potential terror suspect. Many terror suspects are already subject to this provision and make up the Guantanamo Bay residents, but the troubling issue is with the language, which allows arrests anywhere in the world—including the United States.
Opponents of the new language claim that this is the first step towards tyranny as—in theory—the president could potentially deem anyone a possible terrorist, and have them arrested and held without a trial for the rest of their lives. Senator Mark Udall (D-Co.) attempted to introduce an amendment that would have changed the wording and allowed for a Congressional review of the detention power, but the amendment was voted down before the bill was passed.
Now, it might seem paranoid to think that a President would abuse that power to send soldiers into American homes to arrest people, then hold them without trial, but many point to the poisonous atmosphere in Washington and claim that some of the more recent heated vitriol on both sides of the political spectrum, from the Occupy protesters to the Tea Party members has grown to the point that the potential for abuse far outweighs the merits of the plan, and that is a chilling prospect.
There is also the legal question of whether or not this bill would supersede the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits U.S. soldiers being used to enforce laws on American soil, but that law has provisions for exceptions to be made in order to maintain standards of law and order–as long as the orders come from the United States Congress. AS this law is also a work of the Congress, it creates a gray areas that would almost certainly be challenged in court, but not before it was first enacted and arrests on American soils were made.
Add in the massive vocal opposition to the plan, from both constituents and top security officials that denounced the bill including: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and many more, all of which the Senate ignored, and it is hard to not be at least understand peoples’ concern for this new provision.
The President has discussed vetoing the bill unless the language is changed, and it is now in a closed door session before it will head to the White House. Anonymous, however, is not taking the matter lightly. Earlier this week, the hacktivist group released the video “Anonymous – Message to the American People” on YouTube, in which a fabricated voice went over the group’s objections to the bill, then signed off by stating “U.S. Senate, expect us.”
This is far from the first time Anonymous has issued political messages, but it is the biggest target the group has focused on. Earlier this year the group released a similar message for the Federal Reserve, a group Anonymous has also had issue with.
Of course, when it comes to Anonymous, it is difficult to know what is part of the concerted effort, and what is simply a person or people attempting to utilize the group’s notoriety to put out their own message. And if it is a group that can claim ties to the original—or just a group that can effectively act in the same way—taking on the U.S. Senate is at best a risky proposition.
No details on what or how Anonymous planned to go after the Senate, but in 2008 the group made headlines for hacking, then releasing many of Sarah Palin’s email. With election year coming up, perhaps it is time for Senators to change their passwords.