On Thursday the Senate sent the National Defense Authorization Act to President Obama who lifted his veto threat after it became clear that the final bill had broad bipartisan support.
The bill, if signed, would create a legal basis for the detention of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists and their allies. It also would require military custody for foreign terrorists who attack the United States. The bill favors military trials for suspected terrorists, subject to a presidential waiver and extends for one year the ban on moving detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States.
Despite earlier claims that the bill would allow for the indefinite detention of US citizens, thereby eradicating constitutional habeas protections, the final legislation states that nothing in it may be “construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States. That point would be better received if the law around holding US citizens as enemy combatants was clearer.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) was among those opposed to this bill and said she would introduce legislation to bar indefinite military detention of US citizens in all cases.
President Obama’s embrace and support of the expanded executive power and war detention mentality is likely more damaging than it’s creation under the Bush administration. That’s because it shows no real difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the erosion of civil liberties.
Photo from AN HONORABLE GERMAN via flickr.