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Nov 30 2011

Senate Supports Indefinite Detention

Congress is currently working on the National Defense Authorization Act, the military appropriation bill for next year, and it includes a provision that would give the president authority to detain anyone, including American citizens, indefinitely without a trial.

A couple of senators submitted amendments to strip that provision out of the bill, including Rand Paul and Mark Udall of Colorado. But the Senate rejected those amendments on Tuesday. If that surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. And my own senator, Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was against the amendment too:

But Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-Mich.) fired back, addressing concerns voiced throughout the day by both progressives and liberals in the Senate that the law would allow American citizens to be detained without a civilian trial.

“The Supreme Court has recently ruled there is no bar to the United States holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant,” said Levin. “This is the Supreme Court speaking.“

So much for Boumediene. Rand Paul and John McCain got into an argument on the floor over the issue, with McCain engaging in the standard fear-mongering:

Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) battled on the Senate floor Tuesday over a proposed amendment to the pending defense authorization bill that could allow American citizens who are suspected of terrorism to be denied a civilian trial.

Paul argued the amendment, which is cosponsored by McCain, “puts every single American citizen at risk” and suggested that if the amendment passes, “the terrorists have won.”

“Should we err today and remove some of the most important checks on state power in the name of fighting terrorism, well then the terrorists have won,” Paul argued, “[D]etaining American citizens without a court trial is not American.”
McCain, however, who has spent hours of floor time in the last weeks promoting his amendment, hurried to the floor to defend it against Paul’s onslaught.

“Facts are stubborn things,” McCain repeated from the floor several times. “If the senator from Kentucky wants to have a situation prevail where people who are released go back in to the fight to kill Americans, he is entitled to his opinion.” …

“An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat,” said McCain. ” We need to take every stop necessary to prevent that from happening, that’s for the safety and security of the men and women who are out there risking their lives … in our armed services.”

A pure red herring. No one believes that those who have engaged in terrorism or helped those who have should be released to do it again. But the government should not be allowed to imprison someone indefinitely solely on their belief that someone has done so; they should have to prove it in court. That is the essence of a free society.

The bill also continues the hold on funding to move anyone out of Guantanamo Bay and hold them in a civilian prison, or to hold civilian trials for anyone detained there.

34 comments

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  1. 1
    d cwilson

    Wow.

    I agree with Rand Paul on something.

    I think I need a shower.

  2. 2
    Bronze Dog

    I’ve made a commitment: Whenever I hear about someone in congress doing the right thing, I add their names to the list and what they did. I’ve been far too negligent about learning who’s who in the legislature, so I’m changing that. I might as well get some notes ready when it comes to election day for my district.

    I put Rand Paul in the list for this one good deed but noted that he’s otherwise kooky.

  3. 3
    Aquaria

    “An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat,” said McCain.

    Says the scumbag who sold out to the Viet Cong and Soviets to get preferential treatment as a POW.

    Fuck you, McCain.

  4. 4
    Bronze Dog

    Oh, forgot to bring this up while I was typing about that New Year’s Resolution:

    So, McCain, how can you be so sure they’re a threat to the nation if you don’t put them through a trial, where charges and evidence are presented and scrutinized? Whatever happened to not taking a person’s liberty without due process of law? You’re also presuming guilt in a nation that’s supposed to presume innocence until guilt is proven.

    How can you be sure this won’t encourage wanton corruption? If government agents can fabricate the illusion a threat and never be obligated to have their claims examined, they can conveniently make law-abiding political opponents disappear.

    As I see it, people in favor of indefinite detentions are letting the fear of terrorism control their actions. That’s what terrorism is all about: Changing people’s behavior by spreading fear and panic. These people are under the influence of the terrorists, and they are sacrificing core values of civilized society in the process.

  5. 5
    Nentuaby

    Sometimes it seems like congress’ stopped clocks are actually right MORE often than the moderates on these war powers issues. I guess there needs to be a bit more to that old saw about clocks that keep perfect time, but are set wrong…

  6. 6
    carolw

    This is terrifying. There goes due fucking process out the window. I hope this doesn’t go through. Obama can still veto this, right? Canada, here I come, I guess.

  7. 7
    D. C. Sessions

    “An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat,” said McCain. ” We need to take every stop necessary to prevent that from happening

    You, Senator, are a threat to the security of the United States of America and very little would please me more than to see you hauled off to an undisclosed location for indefinite detention.

    Oh, wait — you mean “no matter who they are” doesn’t include you, right?

  8. 8
    wilsim

    Fifth Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.
    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    So, how does a bill in congress usurp the rights we are guaranteed?
    I don’t understand.
    Pretty clearly says that “No person shall be… deprived of liberty… without due process of law”.

  9. 9
    wilsim

    Sorry, didn’t put my citation, its from the wiki page on the bill of rights.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights

  10. 10
    d cwilson

    @wilsim:

    This is hardly the first time Congress has passed a bill that violated the Bill of Rights. It’s why these cases end up before the Supreme Court in the first place.

  11. 11
    Chiroptera

    wilsim, #8: So, how does a bill in congress usurp the rights we are guaranteed?
    I don’t understand.
    Pretty clearly says that “No person shall be… deprived of liberty… without due process of law”.

    Due process refers to a trial. If a person is detained indefinitely without a trial, then he or she is being deprived of liberty without due process of law.

  12. 12
    DaveL

    If I were president, I’d be tempted to sign this bill, then have McCain and Levin secretly arrested and held incommunicado in military custody until Congress remembers why it was a bad idea in the first place.

  13. 13
    D. C. Sessions

    Pretty clearly says that “No person shall be… deprived of liberty… without due process of law”.

    And the case law to date is that when you’re hauled off of a “battlefield” as an “enemy combatant” you’ve had your “due process.” What this law does is just define “battlefield” and “enemy combatant” a bit more broadly than before.

    In case you’ve forgotten, “due process” is also satisfied by the Sheriff taking your possessions in civil forfeiture.

  14. 14
    Chiroptera

    …addressing concerns voiced throughout the day by both progressives and liberals in the Senate….

    Is there a typo? Should that have been “by both the progessive and the liberal in the Senate”?

  15. 15
    Doubting Thomas

    Obama could just make the statement that should this pass, he has a list of those he is planning to have arrested. Let them guess who is on it.

  16. 16
    plutosdad

    Obama can still veto this, right? Canada, here I come, I guess.

    Obama won’t veto it. He is not against it, he is only against the “mandatory” piece. He wants the President to be able to decide whether to indefinitely hold someone, not be forced to. He is perfectly fine with having that power.

    I would say something like this could never stand up to the simplest 4th or 5th amendment challenge. But then again, Scalia seems intent on destroying those amendments, and the current DOJ is worse than even Bush’s in their secrecy.

    This is like a nightmare coming true.

  17. 17
    plutosdad

    Mark Kirk as well (R IL) is the only other Republican to stand up to the mob, and also deserves some props.

  18. 18
    naturalcynic

    So, how does a bill in congress usurp the rights we are guaranteed?
    I don’t understand.

    The 5th should override this law’s amendment. But that’s no guarantee. You can see the way that the new law can run around it with …except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger… Under the current circumstances and under the allowance of this new law, anyone can be subject to this exception. We’re all at war and the battlefield could be anywhere.

  19. 19
    d cwilson

    It should be noted that Obama has threatened to veto this bill. It behooves us all to make sure he keeps his word.

  20. 20
    eric

    Udall proposed an amendment to get rid of the indefinite detention rider; his amendment was defeated 60-38-2. Here is the full list of senators voting for and against it.

    (Just for clarification, this is votes on Udall’s amendment, so Yea = opposed to indefinite detention, Nay = supporting indefinite detention.)

  21. 21
    D. C. Sessions

    In earlier times, this is the kind of thing that Jimmy Stewart would have filibustered. However, the filibuster has since been repurposed.

  22. 22
    OldEd

    Ahem…. Slight problem here… Just out of curiosity I looked up the Treaty between the U.S. and Cuba to see just what it said.

    It says, in Article II, “The grant of the foregoing Article shall include the right to use and occupy the waters adjacent to said areas of land and water, and to improve and deepen the entrances thereto and the anchorages therein, and generally to do any and all things necessary to fit the premises for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose.”

    Note the “use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose”.

    I think that this rules out it’s use as a prisoner of war camp…

  23. 23
    Spanish Inquisitor

    “An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat,” said McCain. ” We need to take every stop necessary to prevent that from happening,

    So, according to McCain, if an American terrorist got a hold of a plane and flew it over our country, intending to drop a bomb on one of our cities, and we shot it down, and the terrorist escaped by ejecting from the plane, and landing somewhere where we could get him, it would be acceptable to hold him as an enemy combatant indefinitely? Maybe put him in a prison camp and not allow any visits from family? Maybe even torture him?

    Sounds about right.

  24. 24
    AsqJames

    Detaining terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial? How thoughtful of the US senate to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Operation Demetrius.

    This policy comes highly recommended too:

    Historians generally view that period of internment as inflaming sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland, while failing in its aim of arresting members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Many of the nationalists arrested were completely unconnected with the organisation, but had had their names appear on the list of those to be interned through bungling and incompetence and over 100 IRA men escaped arrest.The lack of reliability of the lists and the consequent arrests, complemented by reports of brutality from Long Kesh internment camp led to more people identifying with the IRA in the nationalist community and losing hope in other methods. Following internment, a serving officer of the British Royal Marines declared:

    “It (internment) has, in fact, increased terrorist activity, perhaps boosted IRA recruitment, polarised further the Catholic and Protestant communities and reduced the ranks of the much needed Catholic moderates.”

    Not that we’ve learned from our own history mind (google Belmarsh Detainees), so I suppose there’s no reason the US should.

  25. 25
    Ace of Sevens

    Spanish Inquisitor: spot on. As much as I generally dislike Obama, I’m really glad McCain isn’t sitting in his chair right now.

  26. 26
    Freeman

    I find these comments along the lines of “how can they usurp the constitution so blatantly” sadly amusing. Where have you been the last 40 years while the “war on drugs” set the stage? Few seemed to notice or care while more and more of our “constitutionally guaranteed” rights were tossed aside – with full SCOTUS support – as long as it was the hippies and minorities mostly affected. Get ready people, your “turn in the barrel” is coming.

  27. 27
    Bronze Dog

    I haven’t been blind to the militarization of the police and such that came with the war on drugs.

    Mostly this particular case just makes it so astoundingly blatant what they’re doing, and how they’ve been getting away with it.

  28. 28
    wilsim

    @Freeman 26

    Well, personally, I am 35 years old. In my ignorant defense, I hadn’t been paying too much attention to these issues until a few years ago.

    I guess I had also been sheltered from it because I live in one of the most progressive cities in the northwest or the us.

    Paying attention now.

  29. 29
    Aliasalpha

    Oh relax america, its only detention! They’ll just make you write “I will not question authority in the slightest manner, whether through word or thought and shall obey instantly and without question the orders of my overseers and be glad of the honour they do me in billing me 101% of my wages for reminding me that I’m worthless scum, all hail our democratic overlords and of course the one true god baby jesus” 100 times.

  30. 30
    FlickingYourSwitch

    I have noticed how the “free world” has becoming less and less free. Pretty soon we don’t have any bragging rights about respecting human and civil rights, or basic democratic values like freedom of speech. Indefinite detention, torture and Internet censorship. What’s next?

  31. 31
    sunsangnim

    The president has determined that he can order the extrajudicial death of a US citizen. And he’s followed through on it. After that, as Jane’s Addiction says, nothing’s shocking.

  32. 32
    Skip White

    Interesting. People who apparently support indefinite election for themselves also support indefinite detention for people who, perhaps, may not support their indefinite election. Nah, that’s just my paranoia acting up again.

  33. 33
    John Phillips, FCD

    Land of the free? Less and less every day, though it is rather sadly ironic how this emphasises that the US government has as much respect for its own citizens as it does for the citizens of other countries, i.e none.

  34. 34
    bobtmarley

    So, the first people to be locked up indefinitely will be all of Congress, right? That doesn’t sound so bad, since they appear to be a greater threat to America than any terrorist.

  1. 35
    du hoc new zealand

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  2. 36
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