An Orwellian society, as describe by George Orwell, is the destruction of the welfare of a free society in which there is an invasion of privacy by constantly monitoring its citizens. Moreover, it is the encouragement of “doublespeak” which refers to misleading the masses to accept inconsistent policies. A great example of this is seen when the American people gave up their civil liberties and freedom in the name of national security.
On December 31, 2011, while many Americans celebrated bringing in the New Year, President Obama was busy signing into law the $662 billion funded National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which focuses on the defense of the United States and its overseas interests. Although the NDAA addresses US national security programs and the Department of Defense health care costs, it becomes controversial when addressing counter-terrorism. Title X, Subtitle D, Section 1021 of the NDAA, which is labeled counter-terrorism, authorizes the military to detain US citizens indefinitely without trial if the government suspects their involvement with terrorism or connection to a terrorist organization. To date, there has been no law in the legislative history of the United States other than the Patriot Act which has given the President such unlimited power.
As a result of this provision the act has been seen as both a violation of international law and the laws of war. In defense of the Act, the President has assured that his Administration will not engage in any sort of unjust citizen detention. At the signing of NDAA the President stated, “I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.” He further went on to state, “My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.” However, such statements do not prevent future Heads of State from acting in a different manner, and may result in America in fact being one step closer to becoming an Orwellian society, whereby a totalitarian government will dominate and oppress our civil liberties by fighting an endless war on terror.
The NDAA also gives the military the power to exercise firm and repressive control over the population, which in turn gives the military the power to operate outside the boundaries of our Constitution by constantly monitoring citizens’ activities to seek out persons of suspicion. Similarly, during the Bush Administration’s war on terror, the issue of detaining suspected terrorist for an indefinite period of time was brought before the US Supreme Court. The Court held that no government has the power or the legal premise to hold a person for an indefinite period of time.
It becomes apparent that the signing of the NDAA goes against the very philosophy of our Founding Fathers who purposely created a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one governmental branch supersedes the other. With the NDAA authorizing the President and military to exercise an unprecedented amount of power unopposed, that system is rendered ineffective. Realizing that such legislation is unjust, the Virginia Senate has taken the opportunity to stand up against the unreasonable application of government authority by passing a bill that prevents state agency from participating or assisting in the detention of US citizens.
Ultimately, although the NDAA was designed with national security in mind, it may be a grave mistake to allow the executive branch of the government to have such an unprecedented amount of power and authority. If such legislation remains, one can only imagine the abuse of power of future leaders who would allow America to closely mimic countries that use policies and mass surveillance to control their citizens. Thus, if this Act is left unchallenged we can only expect the slow destruction of our welfare, and the systematic eradication of our basic freedom and civil liberties, inevitably leading us closer to becoming an Orwellian society.