The Senate last night codified into law the power of the U.S. military to indefinitely detain an American citizen with no charge, no trial and no oversight whatsoever with the passage of S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act.
One amendment that would have specifically blocked the measures from being used against U.S. citizens was voted down and the final bill was passed 93-7.
Another amendment introduced by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein that attempted to bar the provision from being used on American soil, an effort to ensure “the military won’t be roaming our streets looking for suspected terrorists,” also failed, although Feinstein voted in favor of the bill anyway.
Feinstein was able to include a largely symbolic amendment which states that “nothing in the bill changes current law relating to the detention of U.S. citizens and legal aliens,” but this measure is meaningless according to Republican Congressman Justin Amash, a fierce critic of the bill.
“Some have asserted that Sen. Feinstein’s amendment, S Amdt 1456, protects the rights of American citizens and preserves constitutional due process. Unfortunately, it does not. It’s just more cleverly worded nonsense,” Amash wrote on his Facebook page.
Though the White House has threatened to veto the bill, the fact that Obama administration lawyers yesterday reaffirmed their backing for state sponsored assassination of U.S. citizens would suggest otherwise. Not voting for the bill, or in other words upholding the oath to protect the Constitution, has been described over and over again as “political suicide”.
“The bill puts military detention authority on steroids and makes it permanent, American citizens and others are at greater risk of being locked away by the military without charge or trial,” said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
As Spencer Ackerman highlights, the bill completely violates the sixth amendment in that it allows American citizens to be locked up indefinitely, including in a foreign detention center, without any burden of proof whatsoever. An American merely has to be declared a terrorist and they can be abducted off the streets and never seen again.
“The detention mandate to use indefinite military detention in terrorism cases isn’t limited to foreigners. It’s confusing, because two different sections of the bill seem to contradict each other, but in the judgment of the University of Texas’ Robert Chesney — a nonpartisan authority on military detention — “U.S. citizens are included in the grant of detention authority,” writes Ackerman.