California Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed a bill in direct defiance of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act provision, which legalizes the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. The California law, which garnered strong support through the state Legislature, bans any state cooperation with any federal attempts to indefinitely detain individuals.
Under the NDAA, signed twice into law by President Obama, despite empty disavowals of the provision, the U.S. military is permitted to indefinitely detain people on the grounds of “national security” concerns. A lawsuit filed against the president by plaintiffs including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky aims to quash the provision and is making its way through the appeals circuits — government attorneys defending provision 1021(b)(2) at every turn, while the plaintiffs assert that it constitutes an “erosion of basic principles of law.”
The newly signed California law goes further than simply banning cooperation with the NDAA. It asserts that the state can cooperate with no federal indefinite detention attempts. In this way, the bill covers the concerns expressed by civil liberties advocates that the NDAA provision is merely retroactive legislation to juridically cover the tracks of the U.S. government, which has, according to some, already been indefinitely detaining individuals around the world under the remit of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) act.
State-level non-cooperation with indefinite detention is largely a symbolic act; after all, the military, under the orders of the executive, carry out such detentions. But California’s bill, along with similar bills that passed in both Virginia and Alaska, reflect important state dissent from egregious federal legislation and hopefully will do some work in reminding the public that the NDAA’s concerning provisions remain on the books.
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email firstname.lastname@example.org.More Natasha Lennard.