Saying that The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 impinges on fundamental rights that are a core component of life in a constitutional democracy and key to the Boston Bar Association's (BBA) mission of access to justice, BBA President Lisa C. Goodheart today sent a letter to President Obama, imploring him to veto the legislation. In her letter she states:
On behalf of the Boston Bar Association, I write to urge you to veto the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 ("NDAA"). A veto is appropriate because the detention provisions of the NDAA violate fundamental constitutional principles and are an affront to our nation's proud history of adherence to the rule of law. The Boston Bar Association, which traces its origins to meetings convened by our nation's second President, John Adams, and is the oldest bar association in the United States, urges this veto on the basis of its longstanding commitment to basic principles of access to justice.
You and members of your Administration have stated that you oppose Congressional efforts to enact legislation that undermines our national security, unnecessarily weakens counterterrorism efforts, and impinges on due process and civil liberties protections that have successfully governed this country for over 200 years. Regrettably, the detention provisions of the NDAA do all of those things - including allowing United States citizens to be held indefinitely without charge or trial. While Congress altered the language of those provisions in the final bill sent to you in an apparent attempt to appear to address these serious concerns, these provisions remain unconstitutional, unworkable and antithetical to our nation's values and basic principles. Because they threaten the most fundamental and important aspects of our legal system and our form of government, we ask that you reject these provisions and veto the NDAA.
Section 1021 authorizes the United States military to indefinitely detain persons, including U.S. citizens, without charge or trial if they are believed to be a part of or substantially supportive of suspected terrorist groups or undefined "associated forces" engaged in hostilities against the United States, even if such persons have not themselves engaged in hostile or terrorist activity. See Section 1021(a) and (b). Section 1021 starkly departs from very important protections that historically have been provided to all American citizens. These include the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, 18 U.S.C. § 1385, which was passed to safeguard against martial law and the use of the United States military to supplant the authority of state and federal civilian law enforcement; and more recently, the Non-Detention Act of 1971, which provides, "No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress."
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