Friday, December 02, 2011


National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that provides for continued operation of the U.S. military. But this year’s 680-page bill includes yet more civil rights violations sanctioned by our legislature. Here’s NPR’s Steve Inskeep introducing their report:

The senate last night passed a defense bill that includes controversial provisions for handling terrorism suspects. The bill would send most detainees into military custody, not into the hands of the FBI, and it would allow the U.S. government to hold some suspects indefinitely, without charge, without trial. Those ideas ran into strong opposition from national security experts across the Obama administration, setting the stage for a possible veto by the president.

About halfway through the NPR report is this:

Carrie Johnson (NPR): But some Democrats and civil liberties groups said that left up in the air whether U.S. citizens could be detained in this country indefinitely without charges. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, says there’s nothing wrong with taking a hard line against American terrorists.

Senator Graham: I’m just saying to any American citizen, if you wanna help Al Qaeda, you do so at your own peril. You can get killed in the process, you can get detained indefinitely, and when you’re being questioned and you say to the interrogator, I want my lawyer, the interrogator will say you don’t have a right to a lawyer, ’cause you’re a military threat.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: what Senator Graham and those who spout the same rhetoric are missing is that we’re dealing here not with adjudicated cases, but with accusations. The rights they’re threatening were put in place to protect Americans from improper accusations — unfair, unwarranted, trumped up, perhaps specifically intended to put away someone who’s turned out to be inconvenient.

Back in the old days of tyrannical rule, the king would accuse anyone of anything, and the accusation alone would be cause to lock the accused in a dungeon indefinitely, with no hope of help or justice. When we formed this country, we put together a system of rights and guarantees to prevent such abuse and to protect our people from that sort of thing.

And yet that’s exactly what Senator Graham and others want to put us back into: a situation wherein a government that wants to silence someone and make him disappear need only make an unsubstantiated accusation of working with terrorists, and that person can be whisked away by the military, held in secret forever, and denied access to anyone — no family, no lawyers, no advocates of any kind to help him refute what may well be false accusations. No charge of an actual crime and no evidence are necessary.

I agree with Senator Graham that we should take a hard line against people who wanna help Al Qaeda. I’m just not willing to take accusations as fact and throw away the protections we have against abuse, and neither should anyone who supports the tenets this country was founded on be willing to do so. By all means, arrest people suspected of working with terrorists. Then give them access to legal support, tell them what crimes they’re charged with, and have fair and public trials, just as we do with people accused of murder, rape, arson, and all other horrible crimes.

These provisions need to be removed from the bill, and President Obama must veto it until they are removed.

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