HAPPY BILL OF RIGHTS DAY: SENATE VOTES 86-13 TO APPROVE INDEFINITE MILITARY DETENTION OF U.S. CITIZENS WITHOUT TRIAL OR CHARGE
“No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
-United States Constitution; Bill of Rights, Amendment V
Today, the United States Senate voted to significantly weaken the Bill of Rights by allowing for the indefinite military detention without charge or trial of American citizens.
The upper house of Congress voted 86-13 to approve the measures, which were buried deep inside the $662 billion 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), after the House of Representatives approved its own version of the bill, H.R. 1540, yesterday by a vote of 283-136.
The most controversial sections of the bill call for mandatory military detention of suspected terrorists or those who support them as well as the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial for the duration of hostilities.
President Obama, who as a presidential candidate in 2007 declared that “we are not a nation that locks people up without charging them,” had originally threatened to veto the bill. His objections had almost nothing to do with the erosion of civil liberties and everything to do with the loss of executive power in determining which terrorism suspects would be subject to military custody.
Some alterations were made to the bill, notably dropping the provision that requires military detention for U.S. citizens and replacing it with language that allows rather than mandates indefinite detention (not much of a change at all).
Now Obama says he won’t veto the bill. He could sign it into law as soon as tomorrow, breaking yet another promise to the nation and proving himself to be every bit as contemptuous of constitutional rights as his predecesor, George W. Bush, was. Maybe even more so.
Tellingly, this bill was almost universally opposed at the highest levels of the military and intelligence community. From Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to CIA Director David Petraeus to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a veritable who’s-who of our nation’s top terror warriors has rejected this very un-American bill.
Retired Admiral John Hutson, the Navy’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) from 1997-2000, said that passage of the bill is a victory for the terrorists. “The enemy is just laughing over this, because they will have gotten another victory,” Hutson told The Huffington Post. “It is a victory… for the enemy. And it’s a self-inflicted wound.”
“This is an asymmetric war,” Hutson continued. “In asymmetric wars, you want to pit your greatest strength against the enemy’s greatest weakness. Our great strengths are our ideals and our system of justice… What the enemy, what the terrorists want to do — because they know they can’t beat us militarily — [is] they can try to change us. They can cause us to become more like them, and for them, that’s victory.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), one of the 13 senators who voted against the bill, declared: “This provision would for the first time in American history require our military to take custody of certain terrorism suspects in the United States.”
“Since 9/11 our counterterrorism professionals have prevented another attack on the United States, and more than 400 terrorists have successfully been prosecuted and convicted — prosecuted and convicted — in federal court,” said Durbin. “Why do we want to change this system when it’s working so well to keep America safe? The fact that these detainee provisions have caused so many disagreements and such heated debate demonstrates the danger of enacting them into law.”
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) lamented the fact that thanks to the Senate, the government can now imprison any American it says is a terrorist for as long as it wants, without having to prove anything in court.
“What we are talking about here is that Americans could be subjected to life imprisonment,” he said last week. “Think about that for a minute. Life imprisonment. Without ever being charged, tried, or convicted of a crime. Without ever having an opportunity to prove your innocence to a judge or a jury of your peers. And without the government ever having to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that denigrates the very foundations of this country.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a staunch conservative and Tea Party favorite, has been a surprisingly vocal opponent of the bill as well. “It puts every single American citizen at risk,” he warned.
The 13 champions of liberty who voted against this odious bill are:
- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
- Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
- Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)
- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
- Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
- Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Civil liberties groups are outraged. “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told CBS News. “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”
“If President Obama signs this bill, it will damage both his legacy and American’s reputation for upholding the rule of law,” Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, declared. “The last time Congress passed indefinite detention legislation was during the McCarthy era, and President Truman had the courage to veto that bill.”
Finally, you know something must be very wrong when even Fox News’ legal analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, denounces this terrifying bill:
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