The War on Terror Comes Home

It is usually difficult to find an issue, particularly in the form of current legislation, that unites retired generals and admirals, civil libertarians, Tea Party activists, retired intelligence officers, current Obama administration national-security officials, and former Bush administration officials. But this year's defense authorization bill, which passed both houses of Congress this week, did just that.

The 666-page bill is a vast document that authorizes $662 billion in defense spending for the fiscal year. Nestled in in this overarching bill are a series of controversial provisions that authorize the president to indefinitely detain terror suspects and require the military to take custody of anyone deemed to be a member of al-Qaeda.

The White House issued a veto threat to both the House and Senate versions of the bill. Just about every member of the administration’s national-security team—the director of national intelligence, secretary of defense, secretary of state, CIA director, FBI director, and others—said the bill did not give the president enough latitude to deal with terrorist suspects as he or she sees fit. In order to address the administration’s concerns, Congress inserted loopholes that make some of the law's most extreme requirements optional.  While it is curious what an optional requirement will look like in practice, it raises a more fundamental question: What is the point of the provisions in the first place? The changes allowed the president to limit military detention to foreign al-Qaeda operatives and allow for the use of federal courts as a possible venue for terrorism trials. On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced that it would sign the bill into law.

While these changes were meant to provide more flexibility to the administration to conduct counterterrorism operations, the ability to “opt out” of using military detention leaves the potential for each and every international terrorism case to be politicized. It sets up an automatic controversy whenever a noncitizen gets arrested on terrorism charges. As we saw in the aftermath of the attempted "underwear bomber" and the failed Times Square plot, the political environment in the wake of even failed plots is overreaction. This bill will simply arm the president’s political enemies with something to point to for criticism.

One highlight coming out of the final bill is the removal of a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The authorization was passionately championed by Congressman Buck McKeon, a Republican from California and chair of the Armed Services Committee. This would have removed the connection between 9/11 and military action, as dictated by the 2001 AUMF that was passed just days after the 9/11 attacks. The new AUMF would have also expanded presidential authority with complete ambiguity to who the enemy is and what the expiration date is, giving any future president broad powers to engage in military actions without congressional approval. 

The debate around this legislation reveals a broader problem with the terrorism detention and prosecution debate. Advocates for military detention claim that military detention and prosecution is better at combating terrorism than civilian trials. But reality does not bear this out. There have been hundreds of successful terrorism prosecutions since 9/11. Those spending the rest of their life behind bars include Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, Zacarias Moussaoui, an al-Qaeda operative arrested in 2001, and Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber. Yet in that same time period, military commissions at Guantanamo Bay have only resulted in six successful prosecutions.

The efforts from lawmakers to keep prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison is equally mystifying. America’s civilian prisons are more than capable of handling the worst of the worst—the likelihood of escape is essentially nil. Furthermore, the federal system is not only effective; it’s a bargain when compared to Guantanamo Bay. The average cost at Gitmo is $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with just $25,000 per year in the federal prison.

The proponents of militarizing our judicial system argue that it is tougher on terrorism. The NDAA legislates that view into law. But the record speaks to the contrary. This is not, however, the only reason why there was an outpouring of opposition to the provision in this bill from national-security figures from across the political spectrum. They also recognize that, as two respected retired Marine Generals wrote earlier this week, “American ideals are assets, not liabilities.”

Comments

To all of the Senators and Congressmen who voted against H. R. 1540, The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012: Thank you for having the courage to uphold the founding principles of the United States and stand against a law that enacts indefinite detention without trial for US Citizens. Everybody who cares about Civil Liberties should send a note of thanks [with a contribution] to one of the Senators or Congressmen who were brave enough to oppose this law. For all other Senators and Congressmen: vote against them in 2012.

The detention provisions of HR1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 are a fundamental violation of America's founding principles that nobody may be detained without trial on the unsupported word of the "King".

The words of the Declaration of Independence now become real because the President of the United States has just been crowned King by congress. The President now has the power to say to any citizen of the United States: "You are an Enemy Combatant" and have him imprisoned forever, without trial, without evidence, and without any recourse of law from any court.

IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for
establishing Judiciary powers.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should
commit on the Inhabitants of these States.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

The Senators who voted NAY on HR1540:

Cardin (D-MD)
Coburn (R-OK)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Durbin (D-IL)
Franken (D-MN)
Harkin (D-IA)
Lee (R-UT)
Merkley (D-OR)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Sanders (I-VT)
Wyden (D-OR)

The Congressmen who voted NAY on HR1540:

Amash
Baldwin
Bass (CA)
Becerra
Blumenauer
Braley (IA)
Bucshon
Burgess
Burton (IN)
Campbell
Capuano
Carson (IN)
Chaffetz
Chu
Clarke (MI)
Clarke (NY)
Clay
Cleaver
Clyburn
Coffman (CO)
Cohen
Conyers
Costello
Cummings
Davis (IL)
DeFazio
DeGette
DeLauro
DesJarlais
Doyle
Duncan (SC)
Duncan (TN)
Edwards
Ellison
Eshoo
Farr
Fattah
Flake
Forbes
Frank (MA)
Fudge
Garrett
Goodlatte
Gosar
Gowdy
Graves (GA)
Griffith (VA)
Grijalva
Hahn
Harris
Hastings (FL)
Heinrich
Hinchey
Hinojosa
Holt
Honda
Huelskamp
Huizenga (MI)
Hurt
Jackson (IL)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson (IL)
Jones
Kaptur
Kucinich
Labrador
Lee (CA)
Lewis (GA)
Lofgren, Zoe
Luján
Lummis
Mack
Maloney
Markey
Matsui
McClintock
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
Meeks
Michaud
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore
Moran
Mulvaney
Murphy (CT)
Nadler
Napolitano
Neal
Olver
Pallone
Payne
Pence
Peters
Pingree (ME)
Polis
Posey
Price (NC)
Quigley
Rangel
Ribble
Richmond
Roe (TN)
Rohrabacher
Rokita
Roybal-Allard
Royce
Rush
Ryan (OH)
Sarbanes
Schakowsky
Schweikert
Scott (VA)
Serrano
Simpson
Slaughter
Speier
Stark
Stutzman
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Tierney
Tipton
Tonko
Towns
Van Hollen
Velázquez
Walberg
Walsh (IL)
Waters
Watt
Welch
Woodall
Woolsey
Yarmuth

If OBL were in heaven, which he isn't, he would be laughing his ass off. He gave his life to bring the US down and we are doing a really good job of carrying out his goals. OBL created the DISASTER that the neocons needed to reshape american democracy as envisioned by corporate america. One party rule (favoring the corporate person over humans) assaults on the US constitution by its own: Homeland surveillence, Taxation without representation in MI, militarization of our state, county and local police forces as seen at OWS and suppression of basic human rights to equal justice and . The Neocons needed govt out of its way, and OBL gave them the opportunity which they seized with a vengence (brilliantly exposed by Naomi Klein in Disaster Captialism). It took over 30 years to come full circle, but they have revealed themselves as arrogant, rich and impatient with democracy. Ronald Reagan gave the movement a pretty face, Rove provided the strategy, Murdogs at FOX the propaganda machine and the Kochroaches funded the takeover. While Norquist dictates, McConnell and Boehner are the production robots that obstruct and block progress. shame on us , if we the american voter stand by and allow the neocons to dominate our national policies and ultimately kill our democracy. We know the truth. We have a choice. And we know from the past, that democracies can die.

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