Guantánamo for US citizens? Senate bill raises questions
The National Defense Authorization Act passed by the Senate this week could allow the US military to detain American citizens indefinitely. Civil libertarians are alarmed, and President Obama says he might veto it.
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“It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” Graham said. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”Skip to next paragraph
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The issue is not being debated along party lines in Congress.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D) of Michigan (liberal on most issues and a friend of the Obama administration) and senior Republican committee member Sen. John McCain of Arizona forcefully argued for the bill.
"Al Qaeda is at war with us," said Sen. Levin. "They brought that war to our shores. This is not just a foreign war. They brought that war to our shores on 9/11. They are at war with us. The Supreme Court said, and I am going to read these words again, 'There is no bar to this nation's holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant.'"
This coming Monday, a tea party group plans to protest in Sen. McCain’s home state.
“When it comes to personal liberty and violation of every citizen’s Constitutional rights, Republicans are willing to take a stand against one of their own if a major mistake has been made," says protest organizer Jeff Bales, a member of the Pima County, Arizona, Republican Executive Committee.
"'Innocent until proven guilty' is essential to our legal system and American way of life,” says Mr. Bales. “The Senate Armed Services Committee's legislation violates fundamental values. It is unconstitutional and must be defeated. We cannot allow America to go further down the road of becoming a police state.”
Some opponents of the new proposal are raising the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which restricts the use of military forces in domestic law enforcement.
The Obama administration “strongly objects” to the military custody provision, the White House said in a statement Friday. “It would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.”
But the basis for the veto threat is not so much concern for civil liberties as it is for presidential power in such cases.
"Counterterrorism officials from the Republican and Democratic administrations have said that the language in this bill would jeopardize national security by restricting flexibility in our fight against Al Qaeda," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “By ignoring these non-partisan recommendations, including the recommendations of the secretary of defense, the director of the FBI, the director of national intelligence, and the attorney general, the Senate has unfortunately engaged in a little political micromanagement at the expense of sensible national security policy.”