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.