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With the House having voted 406-17 to "close" portions of the meetings and avoid public scrutiny, members from both chambers and both parties are meeting in a secretive conference committee to work on reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. On the military detention provision, their main task is going to be to find a solution that can pass both chambers (again) and not draw a veto from President Obama.

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Read the Military Detention Bill

November 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The 2012 Defense Department Authorization bill that the Senate is working on this week contains a provision that would authorize the U.S. military to indefinitely detain, without charge or trial, anyone they consider to be engaged in hostilities against the United States. The provision would not restrict military detentions to people in specific countries or regions of the world and would apply to U.S. citizens living within the United States. 

With the social uprisings taking place around the world, including the Occupy movement, the relevant and important question here is if this could be used to attempt to justify military suppression of constitutionaly-protected political activity. Could the military use this to power to essentially disappear U.S. citizens with inconvenient views? As always, it's not the intention of the legislators that ultimately matters, it's the legislative text and it's interpretable potential for as long as it may stand as law. Therefore, I'm posting the legislative text of the provision below for you to read for yourself:

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One might think the recent killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan would lead to more talk in Congress about winding down the war in Afghanistan, and to some extent it has. Rep. Chellie Pingree [D, ME-1], for example, is petitioning for an accelerated withdrawal. But the Republican House leadership, which is really the locus of Congress' decision-making as a whole, is pushing in the other direction. They are using the must-pass 2012 Defense Authorization Act as a vehicle to expand the President's authority to use military force against virtually anybody suspected of terrorism, anywhere in the world, at any time.

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There's not a whole lot these days that the Republican House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate are eager to work on together. But there is at least one thing. On February 28th, three controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act are scheduled to expire, and in the past couple of weeks Democrats and Republicans in both chambers have introduced several bills to reauthorize and extend them. In both chambers the committee chairmen who will be in charge of bringing the bills to the floor for votes have already signed on as supporters.

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As you no doubt have heard, federal agents last night arrested Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen suspected of planting the failed car-bomb in Time Square on Saturday. There isn't a lot of information out yet on how the arrest went down or whether Shahzad is connected to foreign terrorist groups, but Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] today is saying that if the agents read Shahzad his Miranda rights, informing him that he has a right to remain silent until he goes to court, they made a big mistake.

Thanks to a bill McCain introduced earlier this year, we know exactly how McCain thinks the arrest should have been handled. The bill is called the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act and it empowers federal authorities to hand over terrorist suspects, called "unprivileged enemy belligerent" in the bill, to the military for interrogation and indefinite dentition without trial, even if they are an American citizen. 

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McCain and Lieberman's Nightmarish Detention Bill

March 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

One of Congress's most notoriously hawkish duos, Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT], recently introduced legislation in response to President Obama's decision to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day airplane bomber, in a criminal court. Their proposal, which they are calling the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act, would empower the U.S. military to arrest anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise, who is suspected of terrorist associations and detain them indefinitely, without right to a trial.

Here's my analysis with links to specific sections of the actual bill text and a few excerpts of key sections.

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