Now is the time to ask questions: The 2012 NDAA (OPINION)

The Reichstag (German Parliament). The building was bombed in the 1930s by terrorists. Photo by Jswefu Makkeö

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and cohost of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 96.7 FM . The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Many of the true watershed moments of history aren’t widely understood until some time after they’ve occurred.

For instance, the 1933 Enabling Act that allowed the German Weimar Republic to eventually morph into the Third Reich seemed innocent enough.  It was simply a loosening of the restraints on government in response to a terrorist act—the firebombing of the Reichstag.

A unitary leader pled for sufficient power to make his homeland safe from the threats faced by his nation.  The German people and their parliament, in the name of security, allowed him to assume virtually unlimited power to make them safe.

What the abuse of those powers led to is now clearly comprehended by the world, but to the average German in the 1930’s the danger was not so clear.

With Congress passing the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with its indefinite military detention provisions, it appears that modern Americans possess a similar blind spot.

The malignant potential of the indefinite detention portions of the 2012 NDAA can best be understood by first comprehending the proper role of our federal government.

In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders asserted the self-evident truth that our rights are based in natural law by virtue of the fact that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  They further clarified that “To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

This means that our rights exist by virtue of our humanity—independent of government.  But it also clarifies that the primary role for which government is established is to safeguard and guarantee those rights.

To that end, the people delegated certain enumerated powers to a federal government by calling it into existence with our Constitution.  This document established the form and function of each of the three separate branches of the federal government while establishing the upper limits of their powers.  This was further punctuated by the Bill of Rights that highlighted specific natural rights and freedoms off limits to government interference.

This approach to limited government allowed Americans to enjoy generations of unprecedented liberty and prosperity so long as their government acted in its proper role.

But the indefinite military detention language in the 2012 NDAA represents a clear departure from any semblance of limited government and a shift toward the kind of unlimited government that led Germany into the abyss.

Buried within the act that funds the U.S. military in its various worldwide roles, is a bill that confers upon the Executive Branch and the military the power to grab anyone it labels a “terrorist” and to detain them indefinitely—without charges, without evidence, without due process.

All that’s required for one to be militarily detained “without trial until the end of hostilities” is the accusation of the president, or one of his advisors, that someone “has substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces.”  This language is sufficiently vague and ambiguous to allow as much wiggle room as the president or his military advisors need.

The power to imprison indefinitely or to kill anyone for any reason has just been openly asserted by the federal government.  It has only to be put into practice.

This clearly flies in the face of the 5th Amendment’s guarantee that “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”  Government now gets to define who’s a terrorist without having to prove its case to anyone.

It’s been 10 years since the 9/11 attacks.  Osama Bin Laden is dead.  The war is Iraq has ended and an exit strategy is being sought for Afghanistan.  The Taliban and al-Qaeda have been reduced to shadows.

So why is the war on terror being reinvigorated with American soil and American citizens being declared fair game as part of a worldwide battlefield?

Like the Germans of the 1930s, Americans are being asked to trust a single leader to exercise unprecedented power for the purpose of securing the homeland.  Like them, we too may find that allowing government to operate outside of its proper role will have unforeseen consequences we cannot imagine.

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