Is National Defense Authorization Act Unjust? If So, Civil Disobedience?

In a recent facebook update, my source of all news, political and otherwise, a friend of mine posted a link to National Defense Authorization Act, with a statement “don’t go to occupy.” According to some this act, which has been passed by the senate, allows for the indefinite detainment of individuals “suspected” of engaging in terrorist activities without trial, including U.S. citizens. Many feel that this is a violation of constitutional rights. The Emphasis of this Blog post, however, is not meant to be questioning the Justness or unjustness of the act, though that is something we all should do, but rather, it is to ask: if people believe this act to be unjust, in what way can they combat it?

Would Civil disobedience be a viable option to those who felt this act to be unjust? or would the possibility of indefinite detainment transform the act of civil disobedience from the type of tool that we’ve seen used by Martin Luther King, Jr. to more of a form of Martyrdom like that possibly used by Socrates?

Would MLK have argued for the type of civil disobedience that he mentions in a Letter from a Birmingham Jail had their been the possibility of being imprisoned permanently without trial? What may have come of the Civil Rights movement if MLK and other civil rights leaders had been imprisoned indefinitely?

These question, among many others, come to me when thinking about this issue, and I was wondering what other people think about it. Would a law or act that does what this act is supposedly capable of doing render Civil Disobedience useless? If so, in what way could people resist an unjust act or law that is capable of doing what this act is supposedly capable of?



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2 Comments on “Is National Defense Authorization Act Unjust? If So, Civil Disobedience?”

  1. ymsyed Says:

    Obada Ghabra actually had a post about this law as well (, although he analyzed it to see if it was a case of the dirty hands. I definitely think that this law is unjust. However, I do not think that one could engage in civil disobedience to protest this law. The only way I see to speak out against this law would be to publicly protest. However, in this case, authority could simply send those who publicly protest the law to jail using that same law. It seems that there are always instances in which civil disobedience cannot be used effectively to protest wrong.

    On another note, it absolutely boggles my mind that 99 of 100 US Senators would be in favor of this bill. It is an utter violation of American civil rights at its very core.

  2. hannahlevitt Says:

    If the possibility existed of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement being imprisoned indefinitely without trial, I believe that there would have been no Civil Rights Movement. The combination of potential participants too scared to take action and the ability of the government to imprison those who did participate is enough to make the movement nonexistent. Very few would take part in the movement, and those that did would be imprisoned and silenced before they had the chance to have any real effect on the situation. It is obvious that imprisoning the Civil Rights leaders would have been the wrong decision; however, this is something that can and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
    In my opinion, it is too soon to tell what long-term effects the Occupy Wall Street movement will have, if any. We don’t have half a century’s worth of hindsight to aid us in evaluating the issue. That being said, I think it would be extremely overdramatic (to say the least) for the Occupy movement to be deemed a terrorist movement; these people claim that are fighting for the rights of 99% of our country, so the common good of our nation is clearly a big part of the issue.
    The National Defense Authorization Act is a tricky one to tackle; it pretty much leaves determining whether or not something can be considered terrorist up to the government. Unfortunately, civil disobedience may not make any progress with this act because anyone who disobeys can be considered a terrorist as well and imprisoned accordingly. When it comes to this act, the only hope the Occupy movement can have for right now is that the government won’t resort to using it.

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