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In late November, during a closely watched public debate, the Senate voted by a wide, bi-partisan margin to ban indefinite detention of American citizens. But now that the legislative process has moved behind closed doors, it's a completely different story.

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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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House Advances Internet Surveillance Bill

August 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Under the title the "Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act", Congress is advancing legislation that would make it easier for law enforcement to access information about the online activities of all Americans, regardless of whether or not they are suspected of having committed a crime. By a 19-10 vote, the bipartisan bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27th, as the media frenzy around the debt ceiling debate was consuming virtually all the attention being paid to Capitol Hill. It will now move to the full House floor for a vote on passage. Unless perceptions of the bill shift dramatically, it is expected to pass and move to the Senate.

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If you want to break the partisan divide and get Democrats and Republicans in Congress to agree on something, just give them a bill that makes it easier for the government to spy on U.S. citizens without judicial oversight. Yesterday, the Senate voted 74-8, with 18 senators abstaining, in favor of moving forward with legislation to extend three of the most controversial PATRIOT Act surveillance powers for four more years, without any modifications. By contrast, the Senate has had to pull a small business jobs bill and two of Obama's judicial nominees from the floor after the Republicans mounted successful filibusters.

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Hate Crimes Legislation, Now Riding on the DoD Bill

July 17, 2009 - by Isabelle Cutting

With a 63-28 vote last night, the Senate approved the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill. The amendment seeks to expand federal hate crimes laws to include bodily crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

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A controversial bill to extend federal hate crimes protections to victims of attacks based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disabilities will get a vote in the Senate this week.

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Trending on OpenCongress

July 2, 2009 - by Isabelle Cutting

Unsurprisingly the recently voted upon Cap and Trade bill has been dominating the discourse and attention of OpenCongress users this past week. Behind all that action, however, users have kept on voting on bills, members and issue areas via our Battle Royal function. Here are some highlights of those trending bills, which we didn’t want to slip by, unnoticed.

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Following on their success in adding a gun-rights amendment to the credit card bill, Senate Republicans are working with several pro-gun gay groups on adding the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act to the hate-crimes bill.

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Whole Body Imaging

June 1, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Should the TSA be able to see your whole body, underneath your clothes, as a primary means of airport security? That's the question Congress will tackle later this week when they vote on an amendment to the TSA authorization bill that would ban the use of whole body imaging technology unless another method, such as a metal detector, shows that it is necessary.

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Gay Rights, Meet Immigration Reform

May 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Here's a bill gaining support in Congress that takes two of the most heated political topics - immigration reform and same-sex marriages - and combines them to create a relatively mild but still controversial reform. The Uniting American Families Act of 2009 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow U.S. citizens to sponsor same-sex permanent partners to immigrate legally to the U.S. and live and work here permanently.

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Trans-inclusive Hate Crimes Bill Moving Forward

April 20, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a.k.a. the Mathew Shepard Act, has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1997. The bill would make several changes to federal hate crime laws, chief among them an expansion of the law to include violent acts motivated by the actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim.

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Gun Legislation in the New Congress

January 20, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

There's been a lot of concern among gun owners that, under President Obama, Congress will pass a law this session that threatens their right to bear arms. “People are concerned about overreaching legislation from Washington,” one gun shop owner is quoted as saying in a New York Times article about surging gun sales just after the election. “They are educating themselves on the Internet,” the shop owner added.

Here's a rundown of all the firearm-related legislation that has been introduced into Congress so far this session:

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