"Guantánamo Forever?" - Congress Passes $662 Billion Defense Bill, Aka The NDAA
Congress just passed the National Defense Authorization Act in a 283-to-136 vote. 190 Republicans and 93 Democrats voted for; 43 Republicans and 93 Democrats voted "against." Prepare to be arrested, without charge, simply because someone "up there" believes you engage in "terroristy" stuff. Good luck proving them wrong.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a defense bill on Wednesday requiring the military to handle suspected militants linked to al Qaeda, acting not long after President Barack Obama removed a veto threat from the controversial legislation.
The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week and then go to Obama's desk for his signature into law.
Shortly before the House vote, the White House announced the president's advisers would not recommend a veto, although they said they still had concerns about the measure.
The measure also imposes new sanctions against Iran's central bank and pre-emptively freezes some aid to Pakistan.
The White House lifted a veto threat against a giant $662 billion defense authorization bill on Wednesday after legislators made changes in language involving detainees.
In particular, the legislators added language to make clear that nothing in the bill requiring military custody of al Qaeda suspects would interfere with the ability of civilian law enforcement to carry out terrorism investigations and interrogations in the United States.
A statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the changes mean that President Obama's advisers will not recommend a veto. The measure is expected to come up for votes in the House and Senate this week.
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At issue was the president's authority in deciding whether people detained in terrorism investigations would be held in military or civilian custody.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the legislation includes a "national security waiver" that allows the president to transfer a suspect from military to civilian custody if he chooses.
Swell, in other words it won't be a colonel pulling your nails out... it will be some spook in a grey coat.
And now, for an opinion:
Guantánamo Forever? via the NYT
IN his inaugural address, President Obama called on us to “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” We agree. Now, to protect both, he must veto the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress is expected to pass this week.
This budget bill — which can be vetoed without cutting financing for our troops — is both misguided and unnecessary: the president already has the power and flexibility to effectively fight terrorism.
One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past. Some claim that this provision would merely codify existing practice. Current law empowers the military to detain people caught on the battlefield, but this provision would expand the battlefield to include the United States — and hand Osama bin Laden an unearned victory long after his well-earned demise.
A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it hasn’t sought. This would violate not only the spirit of the post-Reconstruction act limiting the use of the armed forces for domestic law enforcement but also our trust with service members, who enlist believing that they will never be asked to turn their weapons on fellow Americans. It would sideline the work of the F.B.I. and local law enforcement agencies in domestic counterterrorism. These agencies have collected invaluable intelligence because the criminal justice system — unlike indefinite military detention — gives suspects incentives to cooperate.
Mandatory military custody would reduce, if not eliminate, the role of federal courts in terrorism cases. Since 9/11, the shaky, untested military commissions have convicted only six people on terror-related charges, compared with more than 400 in the civilian courts.
A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantánamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future. Not only would this bolster Al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts, it also would make it nearly impossible to transfer 88 men (of the 171 held there) who have been cleared for release. We should be moving to shut Guantánamo, not extend it.
Having served various administrations, we know that politicians of both parties love this country and want to keep it safe. But right now some in Congress are all too willing to undermine our ideals in the name of fighting terrorism. They should remember that American ideals are assets, not liabilities.