Every year, the US Senate passes a bill to authorize appropriations for the Department of Defense and its military programs across all branches. Some of these bills include controversial provisions or unrelated amendments that prevent unanimity in their approval, such as the 2010 bill that extended unemployment benefits. However, this year’s bill, S.B. 1867, adds provisions that allow the indefinite imprisonment of all accused terrorists, even American citizens! Read that carefully: the indefinite imprisonment, not of those tried and convicted of terrorism, but merely those accused. How can the United States claim the moral high ground of promoting democracy and liberty, when we pass a law taking away one of the most fundamental rights that our citizens enjoy under the protection of our constitution?
The relevant section of the bill falls under Subtitle D, Section 1031, which grants the President the authority “to detain covered persons,” defined as those who aided in the 9/11 attacks, or aided hostile forces such as Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Plausible enough, but the detaining allows for “detention under the law of war without trial.” This leads to a tautology – a mere accusation brands you as a terrorist, and no trial is needed to prove or disprove this, just Presidential fiat, EVEN FOR AMERICAN CITIZENS! This detention lasts “until the end of hostilities,” which presumably will occur when terrorism and terrorist acts cease to exist. Does anyone know when terrorism will end?
More so than my disappointment in Congress, I’m disappointed in the Obama administration for its response to the bill – not a condemnation of overreach and the abrogation of American rights, but a condemnation of the constraints placed on the Presidency to detain American citizens without cause or trial. The United States Constitution sets the standard for prosecuting treason in Article 3, requiring two witnesses or a sworn testimony. This bill only requires an accusation, nothing more. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to muster much outrage, when these acts have been US policy for a decade; S.B. 1867 merely codifies it. Any opponents of unchecked executive power should remain wary. To outright retire our protection of freedom in the name security is more than unconstitutional; it’s a step down a very slippery slope.
Reprinted with permission:
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