ACLU: Proposed Law Will Allow Military to Detain American Citizens Indefinitely Without Trial

Are we about to take another major step toward tyranny?  According to the ACLU, on Monday or Tuesday, the Senate will vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which includes a provision which they say will allow the US Military to permanently detain American citizens indefinitely and without trial, akin to the Japanese internment camps during World War II.

The Senate has rejected the ban to stop indefinite detention without trial.  The bill is now likely to reach President Obama.  He has promised a veto if these provisions were included, but civil liberties were not a consideration in the memo.  The president has not made any other public statements on the measure.  If President Obama does decide to issue the veto, it will be the third of his presidency.

Here is a list of every Senator who opposed the Udall Amendment that legal scholars believe would have stopped the military from having the power of indefinite detentions without trial.  In addition, the Feinstein Amendment to NDAA which would have also stopped the provision allowing indefinite detention also failed, 45 to 55.

Update 12/2/11:

The bill passed 93-7 and according to CNN, there was a compromise that prevented Americans from being included in the indefinite detention policy. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, senators can’t even agree on whether or not that’s even true!

“Both parties emerged disagreeing over whether the law allowed or disallowed indefinite detention of Americans. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), an architect of the compromise, said it didn’t. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who helped negotiate it, said he believed it did.”

The ACLU has stated that the media jumped the gun and that the compromise “does not prohibit its application to American citizens or others in the United States. ”  The ACLU states, that if enacted, the provisions could:

- Authorize the federal government to imprison indefinitely without charge or trial civilians — including American citizens— apprehended both inside and outside the United States, including individuals who had no role in the 9/11 attacks or any actual hostilities (the bill would mark the first time since 1950 that Congress explicitly authorizes the detention without charge or trial of American citizens)

- Mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilian suspects apprehended within the United States itself.

- Transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial and investigative responsibilities now held by the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Marshals Service, as well as by the state attorneys general of the 50 states.

The ACLU cites supporter Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) who states that “America is part of the battlefield.”  To top it off, there haven’t even been hearings on these provisions and the administration has not explicitly promised a veto (although there is a memo promising a veto on the bills other consequences).

According to the Washington Post, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) insist criticisms are “misconceptions” and the article certainly doesn’t frame the bill as explicitly as the ACLU and other groups, but the critics insist they have interpreted the law correctly.  Senior Legislative Counsel for the Washington office of the ACLU wrote:

“Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1013 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens.”

Senator McCain admits indefinite detention without trial will apply to anyone, “no matter who they are.”


This is a truly amazing development.  We will stay on this until it is resolved.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted December 1, 2011 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    This is the first I’ve heard of this bill. What will the military be used for; is it to round up terrorist suspects in America? Or quell down riots etc? Will it only be applied towards terrorist suspects or even non-terrorist related issues?

    • Posted December 1, 2011 at 1:40 am | Permalink

      Of course, they state it will only be used to round up terrorist suspects, but as I’m sure you are aware, the risk of abuse is high.

      See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aUHh1iqe43w

      The ACLU likens this to the Japanese internment camps of World War II. Based on what we’ve heard, this would be an extreme possibility, but the authority would be there to round up anyone suspected of working with terrorist groups. That’s a pretty low bar.

      With regard to it being used on non-terrorist issues, I would point out that other laws like the provisions of the PATRIOT Act have been used less for terrorism and more for traditional domestic issues like drugs.

      See this: http://nymag.com/news/9-11/10th-anniversary/patriot-act/

      We can’t assume anything, but from what we know of past experience, it might eventually be used for things unrelated to al Queda. Since people can be held indefinitely without trial, there’s real reason to fear these provisions.

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