Defense Bill Goes Too Far

The Senate is back in session this week and slated to continue to debate and possibly vote on a disastrous piece of legislation—the National Defense Authorization Act.

The bill, known as S. 1867, would authorize spending for military personnel, weapons systems, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the fiscal year that began October 1.

Sections 1031 and 1032 have both civil libertarians and the Obama Administration howling, albeit for divergent reasons.

Section 1031 would allow “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States” to be held in military custody. The bill also authorizes “detention under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities.”

The ACLU issued a warning about the bill. “The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself,” the ACLU notes on its blog.

The ACLU says the way to stop this legislation is through the Udall Amendment, which “would strip the detention provisions and mandates a process for Congress to use an orderly process to consider whether any detention legislation is needed.”

The Obama Administration takes issue with detainee matters, too, but not due to civil liberties concerns. Rather, the Administration’s November 17 statement says section 1032 would “tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals.”

It goes on to say: “Broadly speaking, the detention provisions in this bill micromanage the work of our experienced counterterrorism professionals, including our military commanders, intelligence professionals, seasoned counterterrorism prosecutors, or other operatives in the field. These professionals have successfully led a Government-wide effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents over two consecutive Administrations. The Administration believes strongly that it would be a mistake for Congress to overrule or limit the tactical flexibility of our Nation’s counterterrorism professionals.

“Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.”

Equally troubling are the Administration’s concerns about “Provisions Authorizing Activities with Partner Nations,” which sounds a lot like intervention. The Administration statement says: “ . . . several provisions may affect Executive branch agility in the implementation of this authority. Section 1204 (relating to Yemen) would require a 60- day notify and wait period not only for Yemen, but for all other countries as well, which would impose an excessive delay and seriously impede the Executive branch’s ability to respond to emerging requirements.”

Obama caught Bin Laden but the USA still needs to be agile in its defense?

Where is Senator Russ Feingold when you need him? Unfortunately, not in Congress. Ron Johnson, who is now Wisconsin’s junior Senator, did not have a statement at press time.

OccupySF is taking a stand against the bill. It organized emergency protest march for Monday, set to begin at noon at Justin Herman Plaza.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Recall Petition Ripping?."

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