By Charlie Savage
November 29, 2011
New York Times
WASHINGTON — Defying the Obama administration’s threat of a veto, the Senate on Tuesday voted to increase the role of the military in imprisoning suspected members of Al Qaeda and its allies — including people arrested inside the United States.
By a vote of 61 to 37, the Senate turned back an effort to strip a major military bill of a set of disputed provisions affecting the handling of terrorism cases. While the legislation still has several steps to go, the vote makes it likely that Congress will eventually send to President Obama’s desk a bill that contains detainee-related provisions his national-security team has said are unacceptable.
The most disputed provision would require the government to place into military custody any suspected member of Al Qaeda or one of its allies connected to a plot against the United States or its allies. The provision would exempt American citizens, but would otherwise extend to arrests on United States soil. The executive branch could issue a waiver and keep such a prisoner in the civilian system.
In recent days, several top national security officials — including the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta; the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper; and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, have voiced opposition to the proposal, as have several former counterterrorism officials from the Bush administration.
But among Republican senators, there was nearly unanimous support for keeping the detainee provisions in the bill: 44 Republicans voted for them, while two — Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rand Paul of Kentucky — voted to remove them.
By contrast, members of the Democratic caucus were deeply divided: 35 wanted to strip the detainee provisions from the bill, but 17 voted to keep them in it. About half of the Democrats who supported keeping the provisions were members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, whose chairman, Carl Levin of Michigan, shaped the package with Republicans.
Editor’s Note: Dear Reader,
There has certainly been much consternation over portions of this bill, S. 1867, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, as well there should be, during the past few days, including from such ideologically varied sources as Democracy Now, Rep. Ron Paul, the ACLU and even much-loathed Anne Coulter.
Article titles such as “Battlefield America,” “Soviet States of America,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Unless I’m Held on Terrorism Charges),” convey the level of concern generated by the potential of American citizens’ becoming LEGALLY sanctioned. (Of course, this has been going on for some time, and Justin Raimondo provides excellent analysis of why it’s suddenly become congressionally sanctioned in “Setting the Trap,” posted below in full.)
With all this consternation over Sections 1031 and 1032, does anyone wonder what ELSE may be in the NDAA? I do. Recall a few years back when we, collectively, “defeated” the bill that would have federalized our states’ National Guards. Congressional phones rang off the hook with US citizens expressing outrage. At the time I warned, “Watch the appropriations bills… they’ll slip it in there undetected.” In October, 2006, that’s exactly what happened. In fact, 51 governors wrote in opposition to that alteration of 200 years of precedents.
Learn about the bill, here. H.R. 1540
Senate Bill Allows Indefinite Imprisonment of Americans without Trial
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Photo: Sen. John McCain and Sen. Carl Levin
Bipartisan legislation being considered in the U.S. Senate would expand the military’s power to go after any terrorism suspect, including American citizens, anywhere in the world–including within the United States–and confine them indefinitely without being charged or tried.
S. 1867, referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act bill, was drafted in secret by Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) and was scheduled for a vote by the full Senate on Tuesday.
Voices on both the right and left have expressed concerns about the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has introduced an amendment to S. 1867 that would “delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power,” according to the ACLU. “The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values.”
The provision has also drawn the ire of high-ranking officials in the executive branch who see it as a usurpation of power by the military. FBI Director Robert Mueller wrote a letter to members of Congress raising his own concerns and stating that “The legislation … will inhibit our ability to convince covered arrestees to cooperate immediately, and provide critical intelligence.” President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill.
Levin and McCain have defended their measure by saying that it includes a waiver that allows U.S. administrations to “hold these al Qaeda detainees in civilian custody if it determines that would best serve national security.”-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Related articles at Allgov.com:
Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window (American Civil Liberties Union)
Udall Introduces Amendment to Prevent Veto of Critical Defense Bill (Senator Mark Udall)
FBI Director Raises Concerns with Detainee Policy (by Donna Cassata, Associated Press)
Defense Bill Offers Balance in Dealing with Detainees (by Carl Levin and John McCain, Washington Post)
Vague Wording of Senate Defense Bill Called “Disaster” by Amnesty International (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Obama Approves Life Imprisonment without Trial for Guantánamo Prisoners (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)