It seems US Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) have prepared an early Christmas gift for Americans. If various accounts are true, their gift is more than a little unsettling.
Apparently, in the name of fighting terrorism, the three have conspired to write into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act provisions that would require the military to indefinitely imprison without a civilian trial any American citizen determined to be a member of al Qaeda or it’s affiliates.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is usually a routine piece of legislation passed each year to specify the budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense. Normally, it is not considered a threat to freedom and liberty. But this year, the three senators have added language to it that is causing grave concern on both the Right and the Left.
In defense of their bill, the senators insist the group of people who could be indefinitely detained without civilian trial only include “al-Qaeda terrorists who participate in planning or conducting attacks against us.” They also say the president would be able to waive military imprisonment if s/he believes civilian custody would better serve national security.
Yet, according to Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a citizen would get only one hearing during which the military could assert the person was a suspected terrorist. He or she would then be locked up for life without ever having been formally charged.
Furthermore, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has stated, “The provisions would dramatically change broad counterterrorism efforts by requiring law enforcement officials to step aside and ask the Department of Defense to take on a new role they are not fully equipped for and do not want.” And he adds that the legislation would make the military “police, judge and jailer.”
The provisions are also opposed by numerous others, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and President Obama.
It seems to me a law such as the three Senators want is ripe for abuse. The indefinite detention of American citizens without a fair trial runs counter to American values. This appears to be yet another attempt to deprive us of our liberties in the name of fighting terrorism. At least that’s how I see it. What do you think?