Congress recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill contains some of the most dangerous provisions we’ve ever seen: it would allow the government to imprison anyone suspected of an offense deemed “terrorism-related” indefinitely and without trial—even US citizens.
The president, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and a bipartisan block of senators all oppose this bill. Why is Congress trying to give the government powers it doesn’t even want?
Stand with other military service members and veterans in standing against the military detention provisions of the NDAA. Sign our petition today!
This is America. We have rights, and we demand that our government respect and protect them.
National Defense Authorization Act
What is the National Defense Authorization Act?
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a bill passed by Congress in early December. It
contains provisions that, if made law, would allow the military to arrest, and indefinitely detain, even US
citizens merely accused (but never proven) of involvement in terror-related crimes.
Those of us who care about liberty and freedom must take immediate action. Whether concerned about
communities vulnerable to racial profiling in the war on terror, or the ideological profiling apparent in
the FBI’s investigation of dozens of peace & justice activists around the country, or simply preserving the
right to trial or the longstanding prohibition on domestic military deployment, all Americans share a
stake in this struggle.
Why are the NDAA’s detention provisions so bad?
1. The indefinite military detention of US citizens violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, as
well as the fundamental Posse Comitatus Act, on which democracy relies. A society is not free
when its citizens are subject to arbitrary detention.
2. The NDAA’s detention provisions would authorize the indefinite military detention of
activists. The FBI has long treated peace, environmental, and anti-tax activists as terrorists.
Legalizing indefinite detention for anyone accused of a terror-related crime would give any
future federal government the unchecked power to silence critics, deny the right to trial, and
override the presumption of innocence.
3. Transforming America into a police state would do the work of our nation’s enemies.
Throwing our rights and liberties to the wind is what terrorists want.
4. The NDAA’s detention provisions would undermine national security. The FBI director, the
secretary of defense, the director of national intelligence, President Obama, and the chairs of
the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees all recognize that expanded military detention
harms national security. They understand that detention would not only threaten constitutional
rights, but also force the military to perform a mission for which it is ill suited, and erode trust in
our justice system.
5. Congress is supposed to check and balance the Executive Branch, not expand it. The NDAA
would give the Obama administration unprecedented power to detain US citizens without
judicial review. Rather than checking and balancing the Executive Branch, Congress passed a bill
giving the Executive Branch even more power than the administration wants. 2
What is the NDAA’s status?
On November 29, 2011, the Senate voted 61-39 to reject the Udall Amendment, which would have
eliminated the NDAA’s provisions expanding military detention, paving the way for the Senate’s
approval on December 1. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it comes to his desk with
the detention provisions still intact, but the Senate could override the veto with 66 votes. And that’s
presuming the administration holds true to its veto pledge, which it may abandon if the Senate appears
likely to override.
Senators are poised to vote on whether to override President Obama’s promised veto. As a result,
activism seeking the attention of local and state press could help influence the outcome of that vote.
Those in support of the detention provisions need only five more votes to override a veto. They will be
actively working to preserve the support of the 61 senators who opposed the Udall amendment, while
also challenging the 38 who voted for it.
Bill of Rights Day is coming up on December 15, and there’s no better way to demonstrate true
patriotism than raising your voice for liberty and the right to trial. Allies around the country are planning
actions for December 15.
What can we do?
1. Sign our petition demanding that President Obama fulfill his promise to veto the bill and that
Congress allow the veto to stand.
2. Forward our petition for military service members to any military service members, veterans,
or retired officers you know.
3. Share this call to action and toolkit with your communities and networks. Below are several
ideas for actions on Bill of Rights Day (December 15).
4. Let BORDC/NCPCF know your plans. We’ll feature them on our website, promote them to our
supporters in your community, and work with you to draw attention to your concerns.
NDAA actions for Bill of Rights Day (December 15)
These are just a few ideas for actions you can hold to oppose NDAA in your community. Don’t forget to
let us know about your event so that we can help you publicize it.
Meetings with senators (or their staff)
Contact the state offices of your senators and request meeting to share your concerns about the NDAA.
Reach out to your allies and neighbors and recruit others to attend with you. Visit the office, explain
your position, collect the business cards of the people you meet with, and—most importantly—stay in
touch with them going forward.
A forum can be an excellent way to share information with your friends, neighbors, and community. A
forum can also offer an opportunity to recruit allies with whom to build a larger campaign.
Many forums feature prepared remarks from two or three speakers, followed by a question-and-answer
When choosing speakers for your forum, aim to ensure diversity in terms of the speakers’ perspectives,
areas of expertise, race, religion, age, and gender. Remember to consider students and potential allies
Before the panel, schedule a meeting or conference call with the speakers to review what each person
will discuss. A conference call will also help acquaint the speakers with each other before the live
discussion, which will help make the public discussion more compelling.
Invite friends, community groups, and local nonprofit organizations. Consider asking local groups and
organizations to cosponsor the forum and donate to help cover expenses such as copying, postage,
childcare for participants, and facility rental. Sponsorships can help expand your network for promoting
the event and rally support for future efforts.
And be sure to collect the contact information of attendees, and stay in touch with them.
March or demonstration
A rally or march can demonstrate support for your goals and attract decision makers, media outlets, and
more community supporters.
The most effective demonstrations are strategic. Pick a time and location that supports your goals. For
example, a demonstration outside city hall on the night of an important vote can leverage—and
potentially influence—existing media coverage of the vote.
Be careful to mobilize only when you’re sure you have a critical mass of supporters, as a sparsely
attended demonstration can actually decrease support. Be sure to announce your concerns at the
demonstration by reading a statement about your purpose, holding signs, etc.
As with any event, promote the demonstration or march by posting flyers on bulletin boards,
announcements to email lists, and advisories to local—and statewide—media.
Check your local laws about any potential restrictions on public gatherings. If necessary, secure a permit.
A vigil is a somber, often silent, gathering of people to honor or remember an injustice. Often, groups
hold candlelight vigils at night outdoors and invite community members to join them.
Consider whether to invite a speaker (perhaps a local faith leader) to address participants, or have a
member of your campaign read a statement about the dangers of military detention without trial.
Distribute information about your concerns, but do so respectfully. A vigil is a solemn event, not a time
to loudly or forcefully push sign-up sheets.
If you’re hosting a candlelight vigil, make sure you provide candles and some means of keeping them
from catching on fire. A small paper cup with a hole cut in it will shield the candle from the wind and
catch dripping wax. Find a public place for your vigil, where the community will see you and can easily
join you. A banner or posters can help passersby understand your concerns.
Free performances in a public space offer a tremendous opportunity to convey a political message. Your
campaign can use street theater to share your message with an audience you might not reach
otherwise, and do it in a fun, creative way.
YAHA Net (Youth, the Arts, HIV & AIDS Network) provides a great guide to planning street theater. They
suggest performing in a public place with plenty of people, keeping the performance short and to the
point, repeating a memorable and distinctive message, and engaging the audience afterwards through a
discussion. Consider incorporating props, puppets, music, costumes, and audience participation—
anything that will grab attention can help communicate your message.
Similar to street theater, a flashmob can carry a political and educational message, while creating
stunning visual statements. Video recordings of flashmobs also make great online awareness-raising
A flashmob appears like a spontaneous convergence, often with a performance such as a skit, song,
dance, or action. But despite appearances, a flashmob requires careful planning and timing.
A lyrical ambush is a performance (often featuring poetry, spoken word, or hip hop in an open mic
format) in a public space.
In addition to the voices of rotating performers, lyrical ambushes can also feature drums or musical
instruments, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and noisemakers. Bringing extra materials for public use can help
draw in spectators and turn them into participants.
The DC Guerilla Poetry Insurgency has a variety of examples and suggestions at their website.
You can show a film at a local movie theatre, college or high school auditorium, religious institution,
business conference room, or even a community member’s home. There are lots of great films, both
documentaries and fictional pieces, that raise civil rights issues and could prompt compelling
discussions. Choose a film that will highlight the problems your campaign seeks to address. Refer to
BORDC’s list of recommended resources.
Entice supporters, community members, and the press to attend your screening. It’s great—but
difficult—to get a film’s stars or creators to attend your screening, but there are lots of easier ways to
promote it as well. Ask local restaurants or grocery stores for food donations or request that campaign 5
supporters bring snacks. Hold a raffle or door prize with donated goods or services from local
Be careful not to violate copyright laws that may prohibit certain public film screenings. You can avoid
copyright violations by requesting permission from the filmmaker or producer. Some may require you to
pay to show the film, but many distributers routinely allow certain types of groups and organizations to
show films for free.
Letters to Congress
Writing letters to your senators can be more personal than a petition and can help demonstrate broad
It’s easiest to get a supporter to write a letter when he or she is already sitting down. For example, take
a few minutes during a forum or film screening and ask people to write letters. It’s helpful to offer a
sample text, if participants are writing their letters themselves, or postcards on which they can write a
You can either mail the letters or cards to your senators or deliver them in person at a meeting.
Remember to make copies of them beforehand so you can follow up with letter writers later.
Don’t forget to let us know about your event so that we can help you