By Tim Cushing
We’ve heard a lot about the latest defense authorization bill in recent days, thanks mainly to President Trump’s (empty) threats to withhold funding for the military (the guys he says he loves!) if it doesn’t include a Section 230-stripping poison pill (aimed at the guys he hates!). Congress has belatedly developed a backbone and is threatening to override the President’s promised veto — something Trump is promising to do because, apparently, funding the military is less important than making sure people on Twitter don’t treat him like the idiot he is.
Trump’s tantrum notwithstanding, the bill will pass with or without his support. No other mildly rational legislator actually believes preventing social media platforms from being sued over third-party content is a “national security” issue. Plus, the sitting president will soon be forced to stand, pack his shit into file boxes, and make his way towards the exit.
There’s some good stuff in the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), even if you believe America isn’t obligated to protect the world from everyone. Yes, America’s war machine is a trillion dollar industry that shows little sign of slowing down. Its excesses allow cops to avail themselves of war gear and the nastiest end of its spectrum sends legislator-blessed death from above to perform extrajudicial killings.
But, as Dan Friedman reports for Mother Jones, there’s an addition to the latest NDAA that would prevent Gestapo-esque bullshit from being carried out by federal agents sent to quell anti-government protests in American cities. If this bill passes as written, there will be no more disappearing of protesters by unidentified federal cops. Going forward in 2021, federal law enforcement agents will have to be clearly identified while tossing protesters into unmarked vehicles.
Congress is set to approve a defense policy bill that bars unidentified federal law enforcement officers from policing protests. The bill responds to a phenomenon that Mother Jones flagged in June: Unidentified federal law enforcement officers with no identifying insignia joined in the Trump administration’s coordinated crackdown on protests against police violence in several cities earlier this summer.
This would also allow people whose rights have been violated to figure out who they need to sue. Officers who fail to identify themselves make it difficult to name defendants. A lack of identifiable defendants allows the government to sidestep a lot of litigation and prevents plaintiffs from shoring up their allegations. This NDAA provision makes it easier for citizens to hold the government accountable for its abuses and rights violations.
On top of that, it makes it easier for citizens everywhere to see who’s doing what in their name. Taxpayers are paying for this “protection.” The least the government can do is make it clear to everyone who’s providing this “protection” and which officers are overstepping their bounds.