Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain have set in motion bill S. 1867 in the upcoming “defense authorization bill”.
Glenn Greenwald distills the bill's 3 main provisions: 1) it mandates that all accused Terrorists be indefinitely imprisoned by the military rather than in the civilian court system INCLUDING U.S. CITIZENS ON U.S. SOIL ACCUSED OF “TERRORISM”; 2) it renews the 2001 “Authorization to Use Military Force” (AUMF) against anyone who SUBSTANTIALLY SUPPORTS Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “ASSOCIATED FORCES”; 3) it “imposes NEW RESTRICTIONS on the U.S. Government’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo “
According to Tom Carter of wsws:
The military detention provisions of the NDAA, if passed, would overturn once and for all a central principle of the relationship between the American population and its government that has persisted since 1791: the Fifth Amendment, which states, “No person … shall be deprived of … liberty … without due process of law …”
Translated in to plain English, this means that the US military can unilaterally cause any person to “disappear,” imprisoning him or her indefinitely—without trial, without a warrant, without the involvement of an attorney or a judge, without respect for international law, and without giving any reasons.
These provisions of the NDAA are unmistakably expansive and vague. What does “associated forces” mean? What does it mean to have “supported such hostilities?” What does it mean to give “aid” to “enemy forces?”
In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Supreme Court held that provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act making it a crime to “provide material support to terrorism” made it a crime for the Humanitarian Law Project to provide legal advice regarding “peaceful conflict resolution” to the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey or the LTTE in Sri Lanka. The text of the NDAA could be similarly interpreted to authorize the military to detain anyone who provides legal advice, provides medical attention, donates money, or even writes an article deemed sympathetic to someone the US military has designated an “enemy.”
In any event, if a person were abducted by the military and held incommunicado, does it make a difference whether or not the prisoner “supported” any “enemies,” if the prisoner never would have the opportunity to go before a judge and argue at the provisions of the NDAA do not apply to him?
The official “opposition” to the military detention provisions consisted of supporters of an amendment to the bill proposed by Democratic senator Mark Udall, simply requiring the military to make regular reports to Congress on its secret detention program. This amendment, designed to provide the illusion of public oversight, would have been nothing more than a fig leaf.
Are you fathoming the magnitude of this serious further trashing of our civil protections?
Glenn Greenwald laments:
If someone had said before September 11 that the Congress would be on the verge of enacting a bill to authorize military detention inside the U.S., it would be hard to believe. If someone had said after September 11 (or even after the 2006 and 2008 elections) that a Democratic-led Senate — more than ten years later, and without another successful attack on U.S. soil — would be mandating the indefinite continuation of Guantanamo and implementing an expanded AUMF, that, too, would have been hard to believe. But that’s exactly what Congress, with the active participation of both parties, is doing. And the most amazing part of it all is that it won’t change much, because that is more or less what Washington, without any statutory authorization, has already done. That’s how degraded our political culture is: what was once unthinkable now barely prompts any rational alarm — not because it’s not alarming, but because it’s become so normalized.
Greenwald on the "cognitive dissonance" we should all be feeling ... if the corporate media were even beginning to give this momentous Constitution-gutting the attention it deserves:
... the U.S. Government claims it has killed virtually all of Al Qaeda’s leadership and the group is “operationally ineffective” in the Afghan-Pakistan region; and many commentators insisted that these developments would mean that the War on Terror would finally begin to recede. And yet here we have the Congress, on a fully bipartisan basis, acting not only to re-affirm the war but to expand it even further: by formally declaring that the entire world (including the U.S.) is a battlefield and the war will essentially go on forever.
Indeed, it seems clear that they are doing this precisely out of fear that the justifications they have long given for the War no longer exist and there is therefore a risk Americans will clamor for its end. This is Congress declaring: the War is more vibrant than ever and must be expanded further. For our political class and the private-sector that owns it, the War on Terror — Endless War — is an addiction: it is not a means to an end but the end itself (indeed, 2/3 of these war addicts in the Senate just rejected Rand Paul’s bill to repeal the 2003 Iraq AUMF even as they insist that the Iraq War has ended). This is the war-hungry U.S. Congress acting preemptively to ensure that there is no sense in the citizenry that the War on Terror — and especially all of the vast new powers it spawned — can start to wind down, let alone be reversed.
Greenwald also purports a rather cynical but disturbing pattern among the Democrats in Congress, something he calls “villain rotation” whereby the Dem Party can posture to be on the side of the “people” and the Constitution by taking turns shoring up the needs of the 1 percenters by a rotating crop of them siding with the GOP members:
.... consider how typically bipartisan this all is. The Senate just voted 37-61 against an amendment, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, that would have stripped the Levin/McCain section from the bill: in other words, Levin/McCain garnered one more vote than the 60 needed to stave off a filibuster. Every GOP Senator (except Rand Paul and Mark Kirk) voted against the Udall amendment, while just enough Democrats – 16 in total — joined the GOP to ensure passage of Levin/McCain. That includes such progressive stalwarts as Debbie Stabenow, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeanne Shaheen and its lead sponsor, Carl Levin.
I’ve described this little scam before as “Villain Rotation”: “They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.” This has happened with countless votes that are supposed manifestations of right-wing radicalism but that pass because an always-changing roster of Democrats ensure they have the support needed. So here is the Democratic Party — led by its senior progressive National Security expert, Carl Levin, and joined by just enough of its members — joining the GOP to ensure that this bill passes, and that the U.S. Government remains vested with War on Terror powers and even expands that war in some critical respects.”
Greenwald quoting Sen. Lindsey Graham:
“If you’re an American citizen and you betray your country, you’re not going to be given a lawyer . . . I believe our military should be deeply involved in fighting these guys at home or abroad.” As Graham made chillingly clear, one key effect of the provision is that the U.S. military — rather than domestic law enforcement agencies — will be used to apprehend and imprison accused Terrorists on American soil, including U.S. citizens.
Greenwald points out that this is dispensing with Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution which provides that no American can be punished for treason without due process. The bill will allow an American citizen to be imprisoned indefinitely without a trial or even assassinated without a trial which has already happened via the present President. This is what Greenwald chillingly calls "as violent a betrayal of the U.S. Constitution as one can imagine, literally.”
That deserves repeating: “AS VIOLENT A BETRAYAL OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AS ONE CAN IMAGINE, LITERALLY.”
But even there, the essence of this bill — that the entire world is a battlefield, including (by definition) U.S. soil — has long been (as I’ve always argued) the most important and most dangerous component of the Bush/Cheney War on Terror, because it means the President can exercise “war powers” anywhere in the world against anyone he accuses of being a “belligerent.” And that premise is one that has been fully embraced by Obama officials as well.
Indefinite, charge-free military detention of people accused — accused – of Terrorism has been fully embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations (it’s one of the reasons some of us have been so vocally critical). The Obama administration has gone even further and argued that it has the power not merely to detain accused Terrorists (including U.S. citizens) without due process, but to kill them. It is true that the Obama DOJ has chosen to try some accused Terrorists in civilian courts — and this bill may make that more difficult — but the power of military detention already rests with the Executive Branch. And while it would be worse for Congress to formally codify these powers and thus arguably overturn long-standing prohibitions on using the U.S. military on U.S. soil, the real legal objections to such detention are grounded in Constitutional guarantees, and no act of Congress can affect those. In sum, this bill would codify indefinite military detention, but the actual changes when compared to what the Executive Branch is doing now would be modest. That’s not a mitigation of this bill’s radicalism; it’s proof of how radical the Executive Branch under these two Presidents has already become.
Greenwald on Obama’s stance on the bill which the Obama apologists are myopically celebrating:
Most media discussions of Levin/McCain assert that President Obama has threatened to veto it. That is not quite true: the White House’s statement on this bill uses language short of a full-on veto threat: “the President’s senior advisers [will] recommend a veto.” Moreover, former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith makes a persuasive (though not dispositive) case that it is unlikely that the President would veto this bill. Most likely, it seems to me, is that the veto threat will be used to extract concessions in order to have a bill that the President will sign.
Let’s be very clear, though, about what the “veto threat” is and is not. All things considered, I’m glad the White House is opposing this bill rather than supporting it. But, with a few exceptions, the objections raised by the White House are not grounded in substantive problems with these powers, but rather in the argument that such matters are for the Executive Branch, not the Congress, to decide. In other words, the White House’s objections are grounded in broad theories of Executive Power. They are not arguing: it is wrong to deny accused Terrorists a trial. Instead they insist: whether an accused Terrorist is put in military detention rather than civilian custody is for the President alone to decide. Over and over, the White House’s statement emphasizes Executive power as the basis for its objections to Levin/McCain:
Greenwald offers a depressing update, one worth applying his rotating villains theory to:
Any doubt about whether this bill permits the military detention of U.S. citizens was dispelled entirely today when an amendment offered by Dianne Feinstein — to confine military detention to those apprehended “abroad,” i.e., off U.S. soil — failed by a vote of 45-55. Only three Republicans voted in favor of Feinstein’s amendment (Paul, Kirk and Lee), while 10 Senate Democrats voted against it (Levin, Stabenow, Casey, Pryor, Ben Nelson, Manchin, McCaskill, Begich and Lieberman). Remember: the GOP — all of whom except 3 voted today to empower the President to militarily detain citizens without charges — distrusts federal power and are strong believes in restrained government. Meanwhile, even The American Spectator has a more developed appreciation of due process than these Senate Democrats and the White House.
They may have 10% or less popularity but they, our oath-taking representatives, indeed have the power to once again promote the fast hardening of soft fascism in America.
The FBI and Homeland Security assuredly were involved with the local mayors and paramilitary garbed and behaving violence-prone police against the occupiers.
The 1 percenters continue to be championed by their fellow 1 percenters in Congress and the administration, to the point that if any of us among the 99 percenters become "belligerently" effective enough in our protests, threatening enough in demanding actual justice and accountability against the rampant economic and military terrorism from our own government, we could be abducted, imprisoned, and “they” can anti-constitutionally but legally throw away the key.
I call that bi-partisanship fascism.
Playing hardball doesn't begin to describe the level of evil being embraced in this class war being waged at those of us exercising our heretofore citizen rights along with the rest of the 99 percenters here and around the globe by the despicable 1 percenters and their political and military operatives.