The introduction of the National Defense Authorization Act codifies that US citizens can be detained indefinitely without charge and without trial.
Press TV interviews Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst in Washington about the implications and potential consequences of enforcing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.
What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: The far reaching detainee provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 would codify indefinite detention without trial into US law for the first since the McCarthy era when Congress in 1950 overrode the veto of then President Harry Truman and passed the Internal Security Act. Now, is the US in your view getting back to that era?
Ray McGovern: It does seem so. I would describe this as an astonishing act of political cowardice. Like your previous speaker, I never would have expected that Barack Obama would let himself be pressured or actually advocate these measures.
They are reminiscent, for anyone who knows something about the German experience in the 1930s, of the emergency measures instituted as soon as the Third Reich took full power. That was in 1933 and we know what happened there.
The rights that are being violated here were inculcated, were inscribed in the Bill of Rights, which my forbearers in the Commonwealth of Virginia - James Madison, George Mason who lived around the corner form me - they pledged in a very serious sense, their lives their fortunes and their sacred honor to imbed these principles and make them inviolate.
Those have now been pretty much washed away. Not only those principles - One can go back in history to 1215 at Runnymede - Does anyone remember when those very gutsy English barons wrested the right of habeas corpus (the signing of the Magna Cata) from King John? That goes back to then. No one; no civilized society was willing to arrest people, detain them indefinitely, and perhaps even kill them without due process without charge without trial. I can hardly believe myself saying these things.
Press TV: Under the new law the US military does have the power to carry out domestic anti-terrorism operations on US soil and it authorizes the military to detain US citizens without trial. Some critics of the law say it means martial law has descended on America; some say the US is becoming a police state.
How serious do you think these kinds of concerns are? The question would be - How stronger is the military power in the US going to be despite the fact that there was some concern raised by President Obama about the Federal and military courts?
Ray McGovern: Well, if you look at the military and especially the way the army has evolved since Nixon abolished the draft, they are a very professional core of people - at the low ranks, people from the small towns in our country and the inner city and they're all trained to follow orders; that's what you do in the military.
Now, if I were Senator Carl Levin or even Barak Obama and I was seeing this new movement - this Occupy movement, taking shape in the country and I was seeing that in some cities like in Albany the local police were persuaded that they are part of the 99 percent and that they really shouldn't be defending the entrenched wealthy people. And so what's going to happen next year? What's going to happen if there is serious unrest because of the deprivations of our various needs here in this country or our mortgages or our food?
Or... What's going to happen if we get involved with Israel in a war on Iran? There would be great dissent on that because everyone would realize what that's really all about and it would have nothing to do with US national security.
So, great disturbances could be expected and I dare say it's not inconceivable to me that Barak Obama and Carl Levin might fear their own rhetoric or they might fear what they see down on Freedom Plaza or McPherson Square that those numbers would grow into tens of thousands; would surround the White House and the Congress and they'd need someone to call in that's not part of the 99 percent.
And I dare say the kind of officer leadership we have now in our army would simply salute and order their people to do it and that's what the officials are counting on.
Press TV: One question that has been asked is when the US authorities are saying that these kinds of laws are going to stay in place until this war on terrorism is over, the question would be when is this war going to be over? When will there be, for instance, some kind of al-Qaeda surrender or some kind of victory over terrorism in the world?
Ray McGovern: I would use the Latin expression 'Sine Die' - without a specific date. That's the noxious element of this. People can be detained for their whole lives and pass away and never be accounted for. What bothers me especially here has to do with torture. Now, you know our president waffled on torture and decided not to prosecute; not to hold accountable those people in our highest government who were responsible for torture. How does that come in here?
According to the law here, one is allowed to use coercive techniques to extract confession. They could not do that in civil courts, but they can do that in the military. What does it mean? It means that this law gives a kind of false legitimacy to that kind of course of interrogation. Why do I care about that? Take the US district judge who just said Iran, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda were all responsible; they all cooperated, in causing 9/11... that they had some Iranian defectors or refugees that told us that. Well that's hogwash.
Now, McGovern (myself) gets up and he says that's hogwash. You, judge have been deceived and he publishes that. Is that material support for al-Qaeda? It could be construed as such. I'm not going to stop my work, but now I am genuinely in jeopardy of being rounded up and put in Guantanamo and never being heard from again.