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Senate Passes Indefinite Military Detention Bill Over Obama Veto Threat

December 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

On Thursday night the Senate passed the 2012 Department of Defense Authorization bill, including a provision allowing for indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens, by a vote of 93-7. The top-rated user comment on OpenCongress, from bpitas, does a good job explaining why the bill has just 2% support among the OpenCongress community:

The problem with this bill (and almost all bills that mention the word “terror”, “terrorist”, “terrorism”, or “war on terror”, like the misnamed Patriot Act) is that terrorism is a tactic, not a person or group of people. By a strict definition of “terrorism”, some tactics employed by the US army could classify them as a “terrorist organization”, but that’s not the point. Since “Terrorism” is a tactic, in order to call someone a “terrorist”, you need to give that person a fair trial and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person in question did in fact use terrorist tactics. Bills like this give the US Government the ability to skip that step and classify someone as a “terrorist” arbitrarily without a fair trial, which is no different than giving the Executive branch the power to call someone a murderer and execute them on the spot. Once you start going down that path, the potential for abuse is catastrophic! Section 1031 needs to be removed.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, arguing that the indefinite military detention section is an attempt by the Senate to “micromanage” the work of the Defense Department. Senators opposing the dentition provision appear to have enough votes to reject an override attempt of a veto. Earlier in the week, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall [D, CO] to strip the detention language from the bill, but the amendment did secure more than the 34 votes (2/3rds majority) that would be needed to sustain a veto. The full roll call on that amendment can be viewed here.

Pictured above are Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and Sen. Carl Levin [D, MI], the bill’s two main authors.

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