Act now to stop Senate approved bill allowing indefinite detention of citizens

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate approved wording in the National Defense Authorization Bill, which should anger all Americans.

The obnoxious language, secretly crafted by Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and attached to the defense bill, would mandate that persons, including U.S. citizens arrested within the United States, accused of terrorism be subjected to detention without trial, in fact without a shadow of due process.

We call for the removal of this wording, and for President Obama to honor his threat to veto it if it is still in the bill after the House-Senate Conference Committee meetings.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted on an amendment presented by Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) to strip this provision from the bill. However, the amendment was rejected by a vote of 60 to 30. Sixteen Democrats voted against the amendment, though one, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, subsequently asked that his vote be changed to favoring the Udall amendment. Assuming the overall bill passes the Senate, the next step is for a Conference Committee to reconcile the Senate language with a House version passed in May, which did not include this obnoxious addition.

The assault on the constitutional right to due process, and also on the ancient right of habeas corpus, is blatant. A gung-ho supporter of this draconian measure, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, made it clear that this is the intention, when he stated that people in the U.S. accused of terrorism should not be read their Miranda rights nor allowed legal representation. He and several other supporters of the bill claim that the whole world is now a battlefield in the “war on terrorism”  and that normal due process, enshrined in the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, no longer applies. To pass such legislation will provide the means whereby future governments persecute political opposition with a threat of permanent imprisonment without trial on the basis of a specious claim of “involvement with terrorism”.

We do not wish to suggest that the McCain-Levin insertion is the only thing wrong with the National Defense Authorization Bill. It also includes language continuing the authorization of the administration to use force in Afghanistan and Iraq. It endorses the whole fallacious “war on terrorism” idea. And of course, the whole thing is an obscene waste of human and material resources which encourages military solutions for the world’s problems. The attack on our constitutional rights contained within the Senate bill is particularly dangerous, however, and has to be stopped cold, right now.

We call on all our friends to contact their Senators and Representatives to reject this attack on constitutional rights of due process, and on the Obama administration to veto this bill if it passes out of the Conference Committee with this language intact.

Photo: U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (Brennan Linsley/AP)