Talking NDAA With My Congressman
PANDA Northern Nevada Chapter
On August 7, 2013, I attended U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei's Town Hall meeting held at the beautiful Montreaux Country Club in Reno, NV. My primary reason for attending was to, once again, address the Congressman's voting record regarding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This was my third attempt to discuss the NDAA with him. In previous conversations, he had always attempted to dodge and deflect questions regarding the NDAA and to shut me down in my effort to push the issue. This town hall would be no different.
The meeting began with a question from an influential attendee as to why there has been no response from Congress regarding the many impeachable acts committed by the Obama Administration. Congressman Amodei danced around the question of “why no impeachment” and somehow landed on the Farm Bill. I wondered if anyone else noticed the lack of substance from the Congressman regarding the essence of the actual question posed. This then led to a string of follow up Q & A and comments from participants within the room. I patiently watched and listened and allowed the dialogue to flow and run it's course.
As the number of hands raised for questions began to decrease, I raised my hand and was surprised when Congressman Amodei pointed to me on my first try, recognizing me and saying something to the effect of, “yeah, I know, the NDAA, right?”.
I had spoken to the Congressman previously on two occasions regarding the NDAA. He also has had an advisor of his contact me to discuss the NDAA and, shortly thereafter, attended a meeting of the Conservative Talk Lunch group which I had been a regular guest speaker, at the time. The bottom line is that he knows who I am and that I take issue with the NDAA.
Taking the floor, I felt a slight grin cross my face, I stated that I had a few questions but first thanked him for upholding his oath of office and voting in favor of the Amash-Conyers Amendment to a recent Defense Department appropriations bill which, if passed, would have defunded the NSA's megadata collection program and that his vote was a step in the right direction. The Congressman seemed pleased with my acknowledgement.
Moving on, I mentioned “However, I do have a few other issues with your voting record on a couple of issues” and posed three questions. The first, “Why did you vote for NDAA 2012 which includes the authorization of indefinite detention of American citizens without charge, trial or access to legal counsel?”; the second, “Why did you vote against the Smith-Gibson Amendment to the 2014 NDAA which would have repealed the authorization of indefinite detention without charge or trial?”; and the third, “Why did you vote for the Cyber Intelligence Security and Protection Act, CISPA, which infringes upon internet freedom and First Amendment rights?”
Amodei's response was, “We've already discussed this (NDAA). I've had my advisor call you. We agreed to disagree and we still disagree. As to the second question about the Amendment, I don't recall it. I will have to look it up”. Regarding CISPA, Amodei provided a long diatribe but never really seemed to answer my question. His response to my question on CISPA was of little consequence to me. My primary concern was to raise the issue of his voting record in favor of the NDAA's authorization of indefinite detention. The only reason I brought up CISPA at all is because I don't think very many people are aware that the bill has been passed by the House of Representatives.
To follow up, I began by stating that I had read his legal analysis on the NDAA which the Congressman had directed me to in a previous encounter. His legal analysis relies heavily on HR 1540 Section 1021 Subsection (e) and Section 1022 Subsection (b) 1 and stated that it was faulty. He became visibly and verbally more aggressive towards me. I proceeded to read Section 1021 Subsection (e) to the room and asked the Congressman to identify any prior or existing laws which cover the military detention of U.S. Citizens. He did not offer a response. I added, “There are no existing laws nor authorities to affect. This (Section 1021 Subsection (e)) is the benchmark. He did, however, offer a one on one meeting with me stating that he would prefer to discuss the issue there as opposed to the forum we were in. I found it interesting that he was uncomfortable discussing the NDAA publicly.
Juanita Cox, another participant at the town hall, spoke up and said, “I'd like to take you up on your offer of a meeting because I too am concerned about the NDAA and I believe that you violated your oath of office”.
Amodei said, “Okay”, and asked if he had her's and my contact info.
Gene Braeger, another attendee, also reiterated Cox's concerns and asked for a straw poll of the room to see how many were opposed to the NDAA. Amodei replied to Braeger by telling him that he had scheduled a conference call town hall meeting in September and would raise the question there. Braeger pushed further again asking “why can't we just do a straw poll within the room?”. Amodei again mentioned the conference call but quickly gave in and said, “Okay, how many people support the NDAA?”. Not a single person raised their hand. He then asked, “How many people are opposed to the NDAA?”. From my perspective in the room, approximately half of the attendees raised their hands. I was later told by someone who had been standing in the back of the room that I had the majority. He then asked, how many people have no opinion of the NDAA?”, of which around one quarter of the room raised their hands. I then asked, “How many of you have never heard of the NDAA?”, but apparently, the Congressman didn't wish to pursue the Q&A any further.
After the town hall had concluded, Cox commented, “I think Amodei thinks he's in trouble. Perhaps the information he was given by the lobbyists or the people he relies on was faulty. He appeared to become more responsive and softened when other participants in the town hall confronted him about the NDAA.”
Overall, it was a successful meeting. I am grateful to those who spoke up about the NDAA. It was good to hear them chime in. We have Congressman Amodei's attention and an opportunity to share our concerns with him. We were able to engage and push forward the dialogue and our message. Hopefully, those who may not have been aware of the NDAA are now researching it further. There is always plenty of room for more in the fight for liberty.