February 1, 2012
In 2008 I voted for President Obama hoping for comparisons with Franklin D Roosevelt, a Democratic President who entered office amid a financial crisis and who used the federal government to help working people find and keep jobs. However, I did not expect or want my comparison to extend to FDR’s signing 70 years ago of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military round-up and removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. On December 31, 2011, after expressing some misgivings, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (the annual defense budget) with a provision that allows the President to authorize the military to imprison civilians indefinitely anywhere in the world, including American citizens, without charging or putting them on trial.
Although President Obama states he will not indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without a trial, by his authorization of the NDAA he has made it easier for future administrations to do so. Furthermore, any protections granted to an American citizen may be sidestepped if current legislation, the “Enemy Expatriation Act,” making its way through Congress is passed and signed into law. This legislation would allow the government to strip citizenship from Americans “engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States.” It does not seem farfetched to imagine that criticism of our country’s fight against terrorism or a contribution to a Muslim charity will one day be used as a reason to exile an American.