Forty members of Congress have sent a letter urging the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders to protest provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens. The NDAA first passed in the House of Representatives weeks ago but endured strong opposition from a handful of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate last Thursday, where the bill was passed but with the addition of an amendment that forced the measure to be revised for a final vote. The final version of the NDAA was completed and a vote on it is set to take place this week.
“I strongly oppose mandating military custody and allowing for indefinite detention without due process or trial. These provisions are deeply concerning and would risk putting American citizens in military detention, indefinitely. In short, this authority is at complete odds with the United States Constitution.” stated Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
On December 5, Senator Rand Paul (R-KT.) wrote of the dangerous provisions found in the NDAA in the National Review: “If you allow the government the unlimited power to detain citizens without a jury trial, you are exposing yourself to the whim of those in power. That is a dangerous game.”
The final version of the bill does not address any of the concerns of members of congress.
Any issues that the Obama administration supposedly had with the Senate-passed version of the bill, apparently had nothing to do with the indefinite detention of Americans. Recent revelations by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) indicate that the White House actually insisted that any language exempting American citizens from the indefinite detention provision be removed.
“The language which precluded the application of Section 1031 to American citizens was in the bill that we originally approved … and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that U.S. citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.” said Levin.
The provisions found in Section 1031 of the bill provide the President full power to arrest and detain citizens of the United States without due process. Under that provision, the President is also given the authority to use the military to apprehend and detain those suspected individuals, dubbed “covered persons.” Section 1031, defines a “covered person” as one who either engages in terrorist acts, or is associated with an organization guilty of “belligerent acts.”
According to Senator Rand Paul the FBI publishes characteristics of people you should report as possible terrorists. The list includes the possession of “Meals Ready to Eat,” weatherproofed ammunition and high-capacity magazines, missing fingers, brightly colored stains on clothing, paying for products in cash, and changes in hair color.
Still, supporters for the bill say that it should not make exceptions for anyone, regardless of their citizenship.
“It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” remarked Senator Graham (Rep.-S.C.) “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”
According to the Huffington Post, “the last time something of this magnitude was even talked about was during World War Two when Japanese-Americans were put into internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”
While the indefinite detention provision managed to remain in the bill, some other significant items found their way out of it, including a 2014 audit requirement for the Pentagon, reports Congressional Quarterly.