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Utah asks for repeal of NDAA’s indefinite detention provisions

Published time: February 28, 2012 19:30
Edited time: February 28, 2012 23:30
Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base. (REUTERS/Reuters Staff)

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base. (REUTERS/Reuters Staff)

Utah is now the latest state to draft legislation specifically condemning the provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that allow the president to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge.

The Utah House is currently considering legislation that would publically put down Congress for drafting the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or the NDAA. The United States House and Senate passed the NDAA late last year before sending it to the White House for President Barack Obama to approve on December 31, 2011. Although the legislation legitimizes the use of funds for the US military to spend throughout 2012, it also includes some controversial provisions that grant the Executive Branch the power to indefinitely detain Americans considered terrorists in the eyes of the government.

Unfortunately, how the government goes about defining a terrorist is vaguely explained, which has many Americans concerned that they could someday find themselves forever behind bars in a military prison for expressing discontent with their country.

“Our concern is in the definition of ‘terrorist,’ ” Dalane England of the Utah Eagle Forum tells the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Should the government deem an American a terrorist and apply the punishments permitted through the NDAA, alleged criminals could be condemned to a shadow prison, such as the one at Guantanamo Bay, until their death.

Todd Weilier, a Republican senator representing the Woods Cross district of Utah, adds to the paper that other legislation with good intentions have been used in the pass to implement harsh punishments on Americans that are otherwise undeserving of such. “I have a legitimate fear this National Defense Authorization law will do the same thing,” says the senator, who is sponsoring the bill, formally called the ‘Concurrent Resolution on the National Defense Authorization Act.’

“It is indisputable that the threat of terrorism is real and that the full force of appropriation and constitutional law must be used to defeat this threat,” reads the bill proposed in the Utah House. “However,” it continues, “winning the war against terror cannot come at the great expense of mitigating basic, fundamental, constitutional rights.”

Other state's lawmakers have drafted legislation since the creation of the NDAA that aims to cancel out those provisions as well, and Utah is the latest to follow suit. Earlier this month, lawmakers in the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly voted 96-to-4 to approve HB 1160, a bill that will ban state officials from abiding by some elements of the NDAA. Should the act see similar support in the state’s Senate, Virginia will be spared from the detainment provisions that have garnered opposition against Congress and the Obama White House over the NDAA’s passing.

In the latest plea from lawmakers in Utah, they are asking Congress to either repeal or clarify the language in the NDAA which they fear, otherwise, could be detrimental to the American way of life. In the resolution offered by Utah lawmakers, they urge Congress to act in order “to protect the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Utah Constitution.”

Senator Weilier proposed the substitute bill before the 2012 general session and the legislation was approved for filing on February 23. Nine states have so far introduced bills that aim to adjust or repeal the detainment provisions of the NDAA.