Indefinite Detention of Americans in Military Spending Bill?
Does the new Defense Authorization Bill, S. 1867, slated to come up for a vote this week contain indefinite detention of Americans at home?
The ACLU says it does. An article on a prominent Tea Party website says it does not. And letter writers to both sites -- and others reporting on the ACLU's remarks -- say you can't trust whatever the federal government might do. But what is really in the National Defense Authorization Act?
A widely quoted ACLU mailing reads: "In support of this harmful bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.” "
But the Tea Party article, highlighted on libertarian GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul's website, quoting the legislation, said a "covered person" is "(A) ...a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and (B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners." Continuing, it said, "The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States... [and] a lawful resident alien."
So, what's the bottom line? This right-wing website goes through the bill's language and said the bottom line is more nuanced than the ACLU suggests.
The bill's provisions appear to increase the White House's wartime authority. Could they be used against Americans at home -- such as Occupy Wall Street protesters? Who can say? But the excessive use of war-on-terror policing against Occupy protesters suggests that even if the ACLU is exaggerating, it might not be such a bad idea to support their remedy, a short amendment by Sen. Mark Udall, D-CO.