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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Habeus Cop-out? New bill erodes constitutional rights

Liberty. Justice. Freedom.

As a proud American citizen, these words permeate my mind when I think about my citizenship. Every American should have the right to these three things.

Yet, I had an Orwellian dream last night. I was walking the streets of my small hometown of Antigo, Wis., minding my own business, listening to my iPod on shuffle mode. As I walked down a small alley, I was ambushed and tackled by a small group of military personnel and subsequently taken into military custody, where I would be held for 20 years, without a trial and a formal charge, before being ultimately released.

I violently awoke drenched in a midnight sweat. Could this really happen? Am I paranoid? I wish I was. Under the U.S. Senate’s most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), my Orwellian dream could become an unfortunate reality for some of my fellow American citizens.

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The United States is supposed to be what John Adams called a “government of laws, and not of men.” The U.S. Constitution is one of these supreme laws, which should protect its citizens the same, whether in times of war and unrest, or in times of peace and tranquility. The current NDAA conflicts with the constitutional protections of U.S. citizens in a fundamental way, namely the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th Amendments.

What exactly does the new NDAA allow? It allows exactly what I feared in my nightmare. All the U.S. military has to do is assert that I am a member of Al Qaeda, or some other terrorist network that the U.S. is at war against. This new legislation considers United States soil part of the battlefield for fighting terrorism because Congress believes it doesn’t matter where you are, home or abroad, if you are a “terrorist,” you should be held in military custody, possibly indefinitely.

As long as I am an alleged terrorist, I can be thrown into military custody. Maybe the U.S. government thinks I’m a terrorist because I write articles criticizing American foreign policy, namely the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They may think this means that I’m sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s cause, when in reality, I’m just another hippie-pacifist.

Of course, I would get one guaranteed hearing. Except this hearing would simply have the military allege that I am a terrorist. After this guaranteed hearing, I could be held in military custody for the rest of my life, without formal charges ever being brought against me. I guess this is what American freedoms and liberties have been brought down to in post-9/11 America.

I’m not the only person worried about this legislation. The Senate had bipartisan concerns, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) saying, “It’s not enough just to be alleged to be a terrorist. That’s part of what due process is.
Deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it’s important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) also voiced her concerns stating, “Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge. We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge.”

These U.S. senators are correct. The U.S. Constitution protects us from these types of laws because the Constitution is “the supreme law of the land.” The NDAA violates the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee to a speedy and public trial. Who could honestly argue that being held for 20 years without formal charges is speedy?

It also violates the Fifth and 14th Amendments because holding a U.S. citizen in custody, without formal charges, for indefinite periods, is arbitrary, and thus a violation of the Fifth and 14th Amendment’s due process clauses. Finally, the NDAA violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because detaining an American citizen for extended periods of time without charges is just that, cruel and unusual, in every sense of the phrase.

Being an American citizen is something special. With it, we feel a sense of pride and joy. We feel as if liberty and freedom should be our middle names. This NDAA legislation tries to strip American citizens of constitutional rights by claiming that U.S. soil is now part of the battlefield.

No American citizen should be denied their constitutional rights simply because the U.S. government alleges that they are a “terrorist.” Could you imagine a congressman or woman getting taken into military custody, and then held without charge for years because they are allegedly terrorists? George Orwell wrote 1984 as a piece of fiction, but this legislation is anything but fiction.

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