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Obama, Congress give citizens backhanded Christmas gift

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In a flurry of activity to get last minute legislation passed before heading out of town for the holiday break, Congress handed citizens a backhanded Christmas gift in the form of a renewed and update version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The legislation was placed on the fast track and approved without any fanfare, and Obama quietly signed the bill into law Thursday, the day after Christmas.

So quickly was NDAA catapulted through Congress that no time was given by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., or his leadership team to discuss the bill on the floor or add amendments. The House had already passed NDAA with little or no publicity.

And when Obama signed the measure into law very few were paying attention.

Although Americans have been living under various versions of NDAA for several years, the 2014 version is the worst by far:

The indefinite detention allowed by the original NDAA is still here, and it’s actually worse now, because there are provisions that will make it easier for the government to target those who disagree. Section 1071 outlines the creation of the “Conflict Records Research Center,” where the unconstitutionally obtained information that the NSA has collected is compiled and shared with the Department of Defense. The information, called in the wording “captured records,” can be anything from your phone records, emails, browsing history or posts on social media sites.

The key phrase in the above quote is "because there are provisions that will make it easier for the government to target those who disagree," the implications of which are dire. Those who openly disagree with government policy can more easily be targeted by the administrative branch, particularly the Department of Defense.

Further, it is no accident that a federal judge ruled Friday that the NSA spying program on American citizens is legal and constitutional. This, together with NDAA 2014, creates a dangerous scenario where ordinary citizens can be surveilled and even detained indefinitely for merely expressing their disapproval of government activity.

So which senators voted in favor of this tyranny, and which voted no? The complete roll call vote can be found here.

In addition, Salon, a progressive publication, has noted glaring problems with NDAA, not the least of which is the bill's failure to implement reforms proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would address the explosive proliferation of sexual assaults in the military.

Salon further takes note of the no vote of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas:

And we can all be concerned when it is Tea Party blowhard Sen. Ted Cruz who best expresses civil liberties concerns on an issue. Cruz voted against the 2014 NDAA, stating, “I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act. I am deeply concerned that Congress still has not prohibited President Obama’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process… Although this legislation does contain several positive provisions that I support, it does not ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected.”

Of great concern to Salon is the fact that three nationally known progressive journalists -- Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Chris Hedges -- have brought lawsuits against the Obama administration over its civil rights violations inherent in NDAA. The administration has fought them with a vengeance at every turn.

But perhaps the most critical sticking point for Salon is the creation of a new agency, the Conflict Records Research Center, that will be charged with compiling a massive database within the Department of Defense that stores surveillance records on a variety of individuals, including suspected overseas terrorists but also ordinary U.S. citizens on our own soil whose worst offense is expressing dissent over government policy.

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Read one of my most popular entries on my blog in the popular series, Musings After Midnight, titled, "The Stealth War."

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