The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a federal law specifying the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense (DOD). Each year's act also includes other provisions, some related to civil liberties.
The FY14 NDAA includes language that will make it easier to transfer detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, home or to third countries that agree to accept them. The language, however, prohibits the transfer of any detainee onto U.S. soil for any reason. The bill also does not include funds for building new, or upgrading old, facilities at Guantanamo—an acknowledgement that the facilities are temporary. The ACLU supports the language as a necessary but incomplete step for beginning to close the military prison for good.
The bill also includes important anti-discrimination protections for service members, including one that requires the DOD to submit a report to Congress that assesses whether its personnel policies for those living with HIV or Hepatitis B reflect an evidence-based, medically accurate understanding of both diseases. This review is welcome because service members have been penalized for behaviors and activities in which no transmission occurred or where there was no meaningful risk that transmission could occur. The FY2014 NDAA also repeals the prohibition on some expressions of private, consensual intimacy by military personnel – regardless of whether they are an opposite-sex or same-sex couple. With the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," this prohibition was stigmatizing and discriminatory.
In December 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 NDAA, codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA's dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.
For how you can help resist these dangerous provisions, click here.
Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again. The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA. In addition, the breadth of the NDAA's detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.