A bipartisan group of senators put forth an amendment Wednesday that would get rid of the controversial provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows the military to indefinitely detain Americans. The amendment was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who co-authored it with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. It would apply only to U.S. citizens and legal residents.
“The federal government experimented with indefinite detention of United States citizens during World War II, a mistake we now recognize as a betrayal of our core values,” Feinstein said. “Let’s not repeat it.”
Added Lee, “Granting the United States government the power to deprive its own citizens of life, liberty or property without full due process of law goes against the very nature of our nation’s great constitutional values.”
Other senators supporting the amendment include Rand Paul, R-Ky., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Chris Coons, D-Del., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
Truthdig’s Chris Hedges is part of a group of journalists and activists that is suing the Obama administration over the defense bill’s indefinite detention provision.
The amendment could be voted on as early as Thursday, but it’ll still have to survive the House, where the GOP majority has scuttled similar efforts to prevent indefinite detention of Americans.
About a year ago, President Barack Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act promising not to use Congress’ authorization of war against Al Qaeda to deny American citizens suspected of terrorism a fair trial by placing them in indefinite military detention. Senators, deadlocked over whether or not the Constitution allows such detention, agreed to adopt an amendment that left unaswered the question of whether Americans could be detained without trial. This year, Feinstein and Lee think their amendment blocking such detention for American citizens and legal permanent residents can pass.
Not all civil liberties groups however, are supporting the effort. That’s because they think anyone on American soil should be given a trial if accused of a crime, given that the Constitution protects “persons,” rather than “citizens.” The Feinstein-Lee amendment is “inconsistent with the constitutional principle that basic due process applies to everyone in the US,” says ACLU legislative counsel Chris Anders. Not only that, but Anders worries that the amendment could be construed to actually imply that the government has the constitutional authority for such detention.
For more of Truthdig’s coverage on the NDAA, including the lawsuit brought by Hedges and others, click here.
—Posted by Tracy Bloom.