President Obama probably thought he could never sign anything as controversial as the Affordable Care Act. He underestimated the power of the right wing to make mountains out of anthills.
The National Defense Authorization Act is the $662 billion law that authorizes the Treasury Department to fund the Defense Department. It’s the bill that pays our soldiers’ salaries, buys their ammunition and equipment, pays our contractors, the whole nine-yards. It is an absolute, must-have bill. So, naturally, the Republicans added a nasty little provision that made the President quake in his wing-tips.
The bill sort of suspends all Constitutional rights for American citizens if they are declared to be involved in plotting or carrying out terrorist acts. Originally, President Obama threatened to veto the whole bill if that portion wasn’t removed. So, the Republicans made a few minor adjustments. They didn’t make the provisions any less heinous. They did, however, forget one important thing. Our President used to teach Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. He didn’t veto it. Instead, the President signed the bill in Hawaii, where he is vacationing for Christmas.
The provisions, if actually put into use, are unconstitutional. Period. They deny basic rights guaranteed under the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments. Even the Roberts Court could not pass on these provisions. The provisions are useless, a political exercise designed to “prove” to the sheep that our President aspires to dictatorship.
If our President is as politically savvy as everyone says he is, he will find some way to challenge these provisions in court and have them removed. That would be the smart way to diffuse this political bomb before it does any real damage.
The bill also removed from the President the decision about sanctions against Iran. It began the process of making foreign financial institutions choose between doing business with America or doing business with Iran’s Central Bank. It gives the administration a waiver that it can use for “national security” if it is determined that the sanctions against Iranian oil would jeopardize world supplies. The administration opposes this abuse of Congressional power because Congress is threatening the choices and decisions of the international coalition that is dealing with Iran. It is another potentially unconstitutional provision. The Constitution does not grant diplomatic authority to Congress.
There are, however, some very good things in the bill, besides making sure our military personnel get their paychecks. It deals with the problem of sexual abuse, rape and sexual harassment of female service members at our military academies and in the services.
The impetus behind these changes in military policy is the murder of Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach in 2007. She was eight months pregnant as a consequence of a sexual assault by fellow Marine Cesar Laurean. After filing charges against Laurean, Lauterbach was denied a base transfer. She disappeared on December 14, 2007 and her charred remains were found in a shallow pit in Laurean’s backyard in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on January 11, 2008. Laurean is serving a life sentence for her murder, but has petitioned for a new trial on the grounds that the jury was not given the option of a second-degree murder charge.
The NDAA includes provisions for legal counsel for sexual assault victims and the right to request a base transfer. U. S. Representative Mike Turner (R-Ohio) explained his crusade to get these provisions. “In civilian life, you have complete control of your movements, and if you’re in an unsafe situation, you can remove yourself. In military life, the victim needs permission to take even basic self-preservation actions.” The Defense Department is taking a lot of criticism lately over sexual abuse cases, the failure to investigate and prosecute rape cases, the inability of military personnel to get abortions after rapes, and the every increasing incidents on military bases and in our academies. These provisions in the NDAA are a first step to providing the needed protection and care for our personnel.
Here is Part 2