It's possible that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) isn't actually about to destroy the foundations of American freedom. According to several sources including Time Magazine, the version of the NDAA now on its way to President Obama's desk "includes a Senate-passed compromise that says nothing in the legislation may be 'construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.'" And while most blogs and online news sources* say otherwise, Mother Jones, usually a reliable source for progressive pessimism, claims that that language is enough to ensure that "if a future president does try to assert the authority to detain an American citizen without charge or trial, it won't be based on the authority in this bill." A blogger on Daily Kos agrees, which makes two unlikely messengers telling us not to panic about the NDAA in particular.
But maybe this battle was already lost anyway. The same Time article cited above also includes a quote from Senator Carl Levin claiming that "a June 2004 Supreme Court decision, in a case called Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, said U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely." (Levin is a Democrat, in case you were wondering.) The same claim has been made about the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA), the bill that motivated me to invent the American Fascism Clock. And Obama himself claims that the critical Section 1031 of the NDAA merely "attempts to expressly codify the detention authority that exists under the Authorization for Use of Military Force" (AUMF), which was passed on September 18, 2001. (This argument has been used before to justify indefinite military detention of an actual U.S. citizen.) If he's right, then the terrorists had already won their supposed "war on American freedom" only a week after it began.
And now is the time to reverse that victory, while we have at least some significant amount of media attention. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who introduced the amendment mentioned above trying to limit the NDAA's impact on Americans, decided it was a good idea to make sure that the "existing law or authorities relating to the detention" of said Americans was clearly in keeping with the Bill of Rights (rather than being muddled by the AUMF, the Hamdi case, and/or the MCA), which is why she introduced the Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011 yesterday. It contains one loophole: if our military arrests Americans vacationing in some other country, this bill won't ensure they get a trial or Habeas rights. But it's still worth fighting very hard indeed to get the bill passed ASAP. Please call your Senators!
Unlike the climate crisis, we actually have a lot of room to turn this one around. As Time Magazine points out in the cover story defining "The Protester" as their 2011 Person of the Year: "In North America and most of Europe, there are no dictators, and dissidents don't get tortured. . . The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City." However pessimistic I may be about the current state of affairs in America, it's crystal clear that things could be a whole lot worse.
* Okay, that last link is to an opinion piece, but I included it because of the important point it makes: the NDAA includes a "ban on spending any money for civilian trials for any accused terrorist," meaning that even if the government wants to grant you due process after making some terrorism-related accusation against you, it effectively can't.