The Scary Potential of the National Defense Authorization Act

Latest reports say the White House is no longer threatening to veto this bill, saying it is satisfied with the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act. Update below.

 The text message exchange went like this:

“I need something from home. Any luck?”

-          “Yes, I have it. Now what?”

“It’s at the place with the ‘Cash Advance’ sign.”

-          “Ok”

The two cars drove to the meeting place: The money exchange (with the “Cash Advance” sign) located in a strip mall. The BMW pulled in first, and the beat-up van pulled next to it a few minutes later. The driver rolled down her van window and held out a piece of paper. She was wearing a hijab and sunglasses; it was hard to determine her features. A dark-skinned, sharply dressed man with a beard and wearing sunglasses exited his BMW and walked over and took the paper from her.

They exchanged a few pleasantries, discussed their children (the two are married). She then rolled up her window and quickly drove away. He went inside the store and wired an undisclosed amount of money to a man in Istanbul, Turkey.

Three weeks prior to this exchange, a local FBI agent knocked on the door of the couple’s house. It was the second time an agent had stopped by in the past few months – both asking the same thing. A young man in Pakistan had listed the woman’s father-in-law as a reference on a visa application. Did they know anything about it? Nothing serious, the agents assured the couple, just investigating any young men trying to travel out of Pakistan.

In October, the couple had traveled to Istanbul with two of their children. It was here they met the man to whom the couple wired money to two months later.

A year and a half before that, the man traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for two weeks by himself. In fact, over the course of their 12 year marriage, the couple had traveled together and individually to  Hyderabad, India; Abbottabad, Pakistan;  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Makkah and Madinah, Saudi Arabia; Toronto, Canada, Jamaica; St. Lucia, West Indies, London, England, and Cairo, Egypt.

The woman worked for numerous Islamic organizations and media outlets. She is deeply connected to numerous Muslim organizations in the world and has a long list of Muslim professional contacts around the globe.

Based on the evidence above, if the military wanted to detain this couple on suspected terrorist activities, they could do so indefinitely, as evidenced by the National Defense Authorization Act, which was recently passed by the Senate. It wouldn’t matter that the couple could produce logical, evidence-backed reasons for everything. As suspects, they could be held, without trial, for as long as the military wanted.

And that is simply frightening.

Are Logical Explanations Enough?

Of course I’m writing about myself and my husband. And everything I’ve detailed above is true. We traveled to Istanbul in October, because I was invited to attend the WISE conference, put on by the ASMA (American Society for Muslim Advancement) Society. While there, my husband and I bought Turkish tiles from an artist. We paid half of the bill in Istanbul, and last week we wired the rest of the payment to him, as the tiles had arrived at our home.

The trips? My husband did a two-week locum job as a pulmonologist at King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh. We performed our Hajj pilgrimage in 2005, which explains Makkah and Madinah. I visited Kuala Lumpur to attend the 2nd WISE conference a few years back. My husband attended his cousin’s wedding in England, and we’ve gone together to visit family in Hyderabad. I attended my brother’s wedding in Abbottabad. And, the trips to Abu Dhabi, Jamaica, the West Indies and Canada? Family and fun.

I am a journalist/editor, and I’ve covered Muslims in America for more than a decade and have worked for a variety of media outlets, and because of this work I’ve met with and am colleagues with a vast number of Muslims on the forefront of media, politics, advocacy, social work and charitable work.

My husband and my activities all have a logical reason. We are upstanding citizens of this country raising three kids here. We are engaged, active members of society. But if you look at our history of work and travel, you could really launch a sinister case against us.

Far-Reaching Implications of the NDAA

This is why the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act by the Senate is such an alarming development. Everyone is at risk now. As Andrew Rosenthal wrote in The New York Times, the NDAA includes a series of provisions that “mandate military interrogation and detention for any suspected member of Al Qaeda, and authorize indefinite detention of terrorist suspects without trial. (The law is written so broadly that parts of it could also cover U.S. citizens.)” The provisions were co-sponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), and John McCain, (R-AZ) Republican of Arizona.

“Their excuse was that some Republicans had proposed worse rules. But the smart response to that situation would have been to block faulty legislation outright, not to make a really bad deal,” writes Rosenthal, adding that it’s a deal that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said was “hashed out behind closed doors without consultation with his committee, or the Intelligence Committee, or the Defense Department, the F.B.I. or the intelligence community.”

Rosenthal writes:

“These new policies would all but remove the F.B.I., federal prosecutors, and federal courts from the business of interrogating, charging and trying suspected terrorists. Never mind that they have a track record of doing just that, legally and in the open. Instead, it would put those functions in the hands of the military, which is not very good at it, and doesn’t want to do it.

Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a very sensible amendment this week, with Mr. Leahy’s backing. It would have stripped the detainee measures out of the Defense Authorization Act. That proposal was defeated [last week], 61-37. The Pentagon, the intelligence community, the Justice Department and the White House oppose the detainee rules. The people who would have to carry out these boneheaded policies think they would actually weaken national security. Fortunately, President Obama has threatened to veto the Defense Authorization Act. Republicans, especially the gang competing for their party’s presidential nomination, will jump all over him if he does that.”

It’s simply frightening to think that our Senate passed provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow such power to the military. I mean the power to detain anyone – U.S. citizens included – indefinitely for a terrorism investigation, with trial – its mind boggling.

Wired’s Spencer Ackerman breaks down the NDAA, writing that “despite the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a right to trial, the Senate bill would let the government lock up any citizen it swears is a terrorist, without the burden of proving its case to an independent judge, and for the lifespan of an amorphous war that conceivably will never end. And because the Senate is using the bill that authorizes funding for the military as its vehicle for this dramatic constitutional claim, it’s pretty likely to pass.”

That President Obama initially said he would veto this bill if it comes before him is comforting, but not comforting enough. That the senate would see fit to pass the NDAA in its current form is indicative of an unprecedented disrespect for the rights afforded to American citizens by the Constitution of this country as well as to the very foundations of the United States.

The debates in the House and Senate aren’t over yet. Josh Gerstein reported in Politico this week that “a House-Senate conference committee announced a revised version of the National Defense Authorization Act that lawmakers said addressed many of the concerns that led White House officials to threaten a veto.”

With revised versions of the NDAA being debated, the White House has been mute about whether the changes to the bill are enough to win Obama’s signature or whether he plans to carry through with the veto threat, Gerstein reported. Still, that doesn’t lessen my concern about where this is taking us, and what has already happened.

FBI agents at my door, potential scrutiny over my every move with the threat of indefinite detainment — this is what it’s like to be Muslim in America? My husband is a reputable physician, a good son, husband and father. I’m a hard-working mom raising three children, especially worrying night and day about the needs of her autistic eldest son. I swear, there’s nothing more going on then that.

UPDATE: The New York Times reported late yesterday that the White House is no longer threatening to veto the NDAA, saying it is satisfied with the latest version that have been passed by the House and Senate. Did you year that folks? The White House will no longer veto.

Charles Savage reported:

The administration had threatened to veto versions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 passed by the House and the Senate, arguing that provisions would open the door for the military to perform policing functions inside the United States, and that they would infringe on executive branch powers.

But the White House said in a statement that adjustments made by a House-Senate conference committee had sufficiently addressed its concerns.

“As a result of these changes, we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the president’s senior advisors will not recommend a veto,” it said.

So while the White House is now ok with the bill, given that its executive branch powers are now protected from infringement by military investigation tactices, the glaring civil liberties issue still remains in the bill, as reported by the New York Times:

“… The bill includes a narrower provision, drafted by the Senate, authorizing the government to detain, without trial, suspected members of Al Qaeda or its allies — or those who “substantially supported” them — bolstering the authorization it enacted a decade ago against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Another section would require officials to hold noncitizens suspected of being Qaeda operatives in military custody. The administration had focused its objections on that section, but the panel expanded the executive branch’s ability to make exceptions.”

So let’s get this straight: No longer is there the slim protection that the White House will veto the National Defense Authorization Act. Any person, citizen or otherwise, can be detained, indefinately, without trial, if they are suspected by the government to be a member of al Qaeda or its allies. I think that it would be difficult to find any American who does not support the United States protecting itself against terrorism. But at what cost? At the cost of our civil liberities? At the cost of rights afforded to Americans by the very constitution of this country?

On Wednesday, the House approved the bill, 283 to 136; now it goes to the Senate, and they will pass it. Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Atheist, God or no God – you should be appalled and afraid, just as I am. Raise. Your. Voice.

About Dilshad Ali
  • PAUL F

    Islamists and Muslims have brought this “suspicious behavior on themselves due to their constant terrorism threat.
    My suggestion would be for them to go back to where they came from and make their lives better there.  I have no sympathy for Muslims.  They kill, kill and do more killing all in the name of Allah?  Hmmm…?

    • Эрик

      A wonderful example of Uh-merican idiocy and ignorance.  Hey.  Dumbfuck.  The bill includes you too.  If you say something about not liking Obama or Bush, guess where you get to go?  Jail.  Have fun with the water boarding.  And another note, who carried out the crusades?  Oh, right, the Christians.  Muslism, Christian, Atheist, everyone kills because of small radical groups gaining stronger support.  Majority of muslims are not sympathetic to the taliban.  Taliban is a minority.  Saying that all muslims are intent on killing is like saying all Americans are black because you met one black american.

    • Buck

      You, sir, are the embodiment of ignorance and bigotry. Have you ever even met a Muslim or are you basing your nonsensical statements on what Fox news is telling you?

    • Anonymous

      Those people are not Muslims, your ignorance is overwhelming.  Those who would kill and say they are doing it for Allah are in direct contradiction to the Koran.  Educate yourself and you might be surprised by what you find.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, they are most definitely Muslims.  There are nice peaceful Muslims and there are violent terrorist Muslims.  Your holy books can be twisted to justify violence just like any others.

        Just like Hitler was a Christian and Stalin was an atheist (I’m an atheist). 

    • Anonymous

      I don’t trust Muslims, either, but this law is still terrible.  The US Constitution was invented to protect us from government abuses of power.  This law eliminates those protections and takes away our right to a fair trial.

      If a Muslim living in America is planning to attack American citizens and gets caught, their guilt will be proven in a court of law and they’ll be sent to prison.  This law allows the government to throw *anyone* in prison, forever, without a trial to prove their guilt, just because they criticize the government.

      • Anonymous123

        You don´t trust Muslims because you are a racist. Only say less than 1% are terrorist.

        • Anonymous

          Islam is a religion, not a race.  I don’t trust followers of any religion.

        • Realism

          That would mean there are 18,000 muslim terrorists in the USA

    • Annette

      Go back to where they came from???!!! I’m from Nebraska!

  • Cl17
  • Dreavetr

    Timothy McVeigh

  • Anonymous

    When the first of what WILL BE MANY MANY AMERICANS who are NOT followers of terrorist ideology,  NOT TERRORISTS, and cannot locate their loved ones because of National Security Gag orders occurs, then the cautions of Justice Brandeis of “severe reprisals” SHALL come to pass. Screw with someone’s family just once in the wrong way and watch what happens, according to a learned man and Supreme Court Justice. I am not sure what he meant, but I can hypothesize with the best of y’all. Trifling with final freedom is treasonous stuff.

  • anonymous

    Sadly, since this was written the House has voted and passed this legislation.  President Obama has accepted the rewrite and said that he will not be vetoing it.  Our country is soon to lose the rule of law.  Due process will soon be no more, so long as the government “swears” their reasons were sound.

  • Hsfhg

    Thank you x

  • Rwolf

    Americans Lose Constitution & Country To New Fascist Legislation

    Almost every week there are published news accounts of Police Corruption, e.g. Police taking bribes, aiding & smuggling illegal drugs, robbing drug-dealers and committing perjury. ALERT! Perjury by police and their informants may now pose the greatest threat to Americans’ Freedom due to Congress in December 2011 passing (NDAA) The National Defense Authorization ACT of 2012. Under (NDAA) Government does not need probable cause or corroborating evidence to Indefinitely Detain Americans without charges, no right to an attorney, trial or Habeas Corpus; Police that falsify reports and give perjured testimony can now cause innocent Americans to be swept off the street and indefinitely incarcerated for being a suspected terrorist or supporting Terrorism: Note no violent act is required to be charged with involvement in terrorism under(NDAA).

    If that is not scary enough, Congress is now considering HR 3166 and S. 1698 also known as the “Enemy Expatriation Act” sponsored by Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA) that would let Government Strip Your Citizenship Without a Conviction. Once an American’s Citizenship is stripped they have no rights whatsoever. To read article, search title: New Bill Known As Enemy Expatriation Act Would Allow Government To Strip Citizenship Without Conviction.
    To read the full text of the bill, go here:

    Currently there are several Multi-State Recall Petitions of Congressman that voted for The National Defense Authorization ACT of 2012.

    Some observers believe NDAA included the vague term “Belligerent” in the manner it did, so U.S. Government would have authority granted by Congress to Indefinitely Detain large numbers of Americans not involved in terrorism. Under NDAA, U.S. Government can deem anyone a “Belligerent” for indefinite detention. The term “Belligerent” is so expansive and vague an American Citizen could be labeled a “Belligerent” for exercising First Amendment Rights—speaking out for or against any issue; protesting a U.S. Government Policy; agency or coalition Partner. It is foreseeable U.S. Government will threaten Americans with Indefinite Detention that refuse to act as informants. The East German Stasi Police used this tactic to create an army of neighborhood and other informants.

    The passed (Defense Authorization Act of 2012) appears more threatening to Americans than (Hitler’s FASCIST 1933 Discriminatory LAWS) that suspended provisions in the Reich Constitution that Protected German Citizens’ Civil Liberties? For example—Hitler’s 1933 DISCRIMINATORY LAWS (stated fines and time limits) that German Citizens could be incarcerated for e.g., Serious Disturbance of the Peace, Provoking Public Unrest, Rioting; Acts that threatened National Security. In contrast Senators John McCain and Carl Levin’s passed National Defense Authorization Act of 2012—mandates holding Americans’ (Indefinitely) in Military Custody for being a mere “Belligerent.”

    Under the passed National Defense Authorization, could some Americans (Retroactively) be subject to Indefinite U.S. Military or Prison Detention without charges or right to an attorney or trial? Consider most American activists don’t know what other activists and groups they networked or associated did in the past—perhaps illegal. Both the National Authorization Act of 2012 and USA Patriot Act are expansive and vague—what constitutes (1) supporting or aiding terrorists, (2) a terrorist act; (3) when someone is a “Combatant” or (4) “a Belligerent.” For example, Americans advocating, attending or supporting a meeting or protest demonstration against a U.S. Government Agency; Policy or U.S. Military Action—could be charged with (1) (2) (3) and (4) under NDAA and the Patriot Act.

    History Repeats: When other countries passed Police State Laws like The Defense Authorization Act of 2012, Citizens increasingly abstained from politically speaking out; visiting activist websites or writing comments that might be deemed inappropriate by their Police State Government, e.g. cause someone to lose their job; be investigated; disappeared and or detained in Police/Military Custody. Some writers might be dead-meat under NDAA. It appears that “Americans” who write on the Internet or verbally express an opinion against any entity of U.S. Government or its coalition partners—may under the Patriot Act or The Defense Authorization Act—be deemed by U.S. Government (someone likely to engage in, support or provoke violent acts or threaten National Security—to order an American writer’s indefinite military or prison detention.

    Is NDAA Retroactive? Can U.S. Government invoke provisions of NDAA or the Patriot Act to assert a U.S. Citizen’s past or current writings (protected by the 1st Amendment) supported or aided terrorists, provoked combatants or belligerents as a premise to order an author’s Indefinite Detention? The Defense Authorization Act of 2012 did more than Chill Free Speech—it may FREEZE IT! Consider: In mid-January 2012 Homeland Security announced the National Operations Center (NOC) received permission from Washington to monitor journalists and retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms. Could this Homeland Security spying, tracking Americans result in Citizens abstaining from visiting and posting comments on websites? It is not clear why Homeland Security wants to track users of social media and online networking platforms. You may read, search title:  Homeland Security Monitors Journalists 1-7-12 at:

    It should be expected that indefinitely detained U.S. Citizens not involved in terrorism or hostile activities, not given Miranda Warnings when interrogated or allowed legal counsel; will also be prosecuted for non-terrorist (ordinary crimes) because of their (alleged admissions) while held in Indefinite Detention.

    Is the Defense Authorization Act of 2012) More Threatening to Americans than Hitler’s (1933 DISCRIMINATORY LAWS) That Suspended Provisions In the Reich Constitution That Protected German Citizens’ Civil liberties?

    GERMANY Preliminary Compilation of Selected Laws, Decrees, and Regulations:   



    Note: Based on translations by State Department, National Socialism, 1942 PP. 215-17, and Pollak, J.K., and Heneman, H.J., The Hitler Decrees, (1934), pp. 10-11.7

    In virtue of Section 48 (2) of the German Constitution, the following is decreed as a defensive measure against Communist acts of Violence, endangering the state:

    Section 1
    Sections 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus, restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of assembly and the right of association, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications, and warrants for house-searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

    Section 2
    If in a state the measures necessary for the restoration of public security and order are not taken, the Reich Government may temporarily take over the powers of the highest state authority.

    Section 4
    Whoever provokes, or appeals for or incites to the disobedience of the orders given out by the supreme state authorities or the authorities subject to then for the execution of this decree, or the orders given by the Reich Government according to Section 2, is punishable—insofar as the deed, is not covered by the decree with more severe punishment and with imprisonment of not less that one month, or with a fine from 150 up to 15,000 Reich marks.

    Who ever endangers human life by violating Section 1, is to be punished by sentence to a penitentiary, under mitigating circumstances with imprisonment of not less than six months and, when violation causes the death of a person, with death, under mitigating circumstances with a penitentiary sentence of not less that two years. In addition the sentence my include confiscation of property.

    Whoever provokes an inciter to or act contrary to public welfare is to be punished with a penitentiary sentence, under mitigating circumstances, with imprisonment of not less than three months.

    Section 5
    The crimes which under the Criminal Code are punishable with penitentiary for life are to be punished with death: i.e., in Sections 81 (high treason), 229 (poisoning), 306 (arson), 311 (explosion), 312 (floods), 315, paragraph 2 (damage to railroad properties, 324 (general poisoning).
    Insofar as a more severe punishment has not been previously provided for, the following are punishable with death or with life imprisonment or with imprisonment not to exceed 15 years:

    1.    Anyone who undertakes to kill the Reich President or a member or a commissioner of the Reich Government or of a state government, or provokes to such a killing, or agrees to commit it, or accepts such an offer, or conspires with another for such a murder;
    2.    Anyone who under Section 115 (2) of the Criminal Code (serious rioting) or of Section 125 (2) of the Criminal Code (serious disturbance of the peace) commits the act with arms or cooperates consciously and intentionally with an armed person;
    3.    Anyone who commits a kidnapping under Section 239 of the Criminal with the intention of making use of the kidnapped person as a hostage in the political struggle.

    Section 6

    This decree enters in force on the day of its promulgation.
    Reich President
    Reich Chancellor
    Reich Minister of the Interior
    Minister of Justice