UPDATE 2 below.
For about a week or two there, we thought perhaps some of our members of Congress cared, they really cared!, and were making at least a milketoast attempt to pretend they worried about our rights.
The Feinstein Amendment mentioned in the article below may or may not have kept the US government from indefinitely detaining citizens. Legal scholars are divided on how to interpret her amendment, which was apparently worded in a confusing manner. It’s a moot point now, however, since our Congress has decided to remove the amendment and along with it, all doubt as to what their feelings are about habeus corpus, due process and indefinite detention. These are the people we elected and who (nominally, anyway) serve the best interest of our citizens.
In a side note of passing interest, the 2013 NDAA also refers to the Central Bank of Iran as a terrorist organization. The 2012 version called Iran’s bank a “money-laundering scheme”, words supplied by Timmeh Geithner, who ought to know a money-laundering scheme when he sees one, after all. Now we are calling the bank itself a terrorist organization and implementing even more sanctions on Iran via this year’s NDAA. This comes after allowing our own banks to crash the economy globally, not charging one single banker or hedge fund manager with a crime, giving the largest banks roughly 15 tt dollars in bailouts, printing over 45 bb a month into infinity and just handing it to the banks (Bernanke’s current QE infinity action), and refusing to deal with the foreclosure crisis (also caused directly by illegal maneuvers on the part of the banks). Whose banks are terrorists?
Lawmakers in Washington have stripped an amendment from next year’s National Defense Authorization Act that could have kept the government from indefinitely detaining US citizens without charge or trial.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) told reporters on Tuesday that an amendment to the 2013 defense spending bill approved only two weeks earlier had been removed. That amendment, authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), was pitched as a solution to a clause in the current NDAA that allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens without due process or habeas corpus.
Under the 2012 NDAA, US President Barack Obama is affirmed the power to put any American citizen behind bars if he or she is suspected of assisting in any way with forces engaged in hostilities against the United States or its allies. That provision, Sec. 1021, says any person who commits a “belligerent act” against the country can be imprisoned indefinitely “without trial” until the vaguely-worded period of hostilities has come to an end.
Pres. Obama signed the 2012 NDAA into law on December 31 of last year, but included a statement at the time that condemned the powers under Sec. 1021 that he awarded himself.
“[M]y administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” the president wrote on New Year’s Eve. In the months since signing the current NDAA into law, though, the White House has relentlessly defended itself in federal court to ensure that it maintains that ability, despite a federal judge having ruled the clause unconstitutional.
Sen. Feinstein’s amendment, approved by the Senate earlier this month, declared that “An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”
The Feinstein Amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), was described as its authors as being a one-and-for-all fix that would ensure the White House isn’t awarded the power to indefinite detain Americans in the new year. On Tuesday, though, Sen. Levin confirmed that members of a House-Senate conference agreed to remove that clause from the draft.
“The language of the Senate bill was dropped,” POLITICO quotes Sen. Levin as saying late Tuesday. According to POLITICO Pro’s Juana Summers, Levin declined to elaborate and instead told reporters, “Basically, I won’t interpret that any further.”
Now with the removal of Sen. Feinstein’s amendment, the latest edition of the NDAA does not include any safeguards that prevent the president from ordering the extrajudicial imprisonment of any person suspected of ties to terrorism.
Because Sec. 1021 is worded as ambiguously as it is, journalists and human rights activists’ have asked the Justice Department to ban the White House from enforcing the powers provided under that clause. District Judge Katherine Forrest awarded the plaintiffs in a federal suit against the Obama administration an injunction earlier this year that keeps the government from using that ability, but a lone appeals judge placed a stay on that ban as requested by the White House.
Last year, Sen. Levin admitted before Congress that under the original wording of the 2012 NDAA, American citizens were excluded from the provision that allowed for detention. Once Obama’s officials saw the text though, “the administration asked us to remove the language which says that US citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section,” Levin said.
Now almost a year to the day later, Sen. Levin has again become the bearer of bad news to millions of Americans who may be subject to indefinite detention for another fiscal year.
According to attorney Carl Levin, a co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the federal case against the president, “if any journalist or activist is seen as reporting or offering opinions about groups that could somehow be linked not just to al-Qaeda but to any opponent of the United States or even opponents of our allies” then they can be detained under the current NDAA.
Journalist Chris Hedges, the lead plaintiff in that case, has said that the Obama administration’s insistence on fighting to hold on to those powers demonstrates the “White House’s steady and relentless assault against civil liberties, an assault that is more severe than that carried out by George W. Bush.”
Returning a request for comment to the Huffington Post on Tuesday, spokesperson for Senate committee leaders directed reporters to an excerpt allegedly added to the 2013 NDAA that says neither this year’s defense bill nor the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) “shall be construed to deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus or to deny any Constitutional rights in a court.”
According to the Obama administration and the appeals judge that granted a stay on Judge Forrest’s injunction, the AUMF does do exactly that. Under the 2012 NDAA, the president is reaffirmed his power to indefinitely detain Americans as granted in the post-9/11 legislation approved nearly a decade earlier.
Raha Wala, a lawyer with Human Rights First, tells HuffPo that the new wording added to the proposed NDAA “doesn’t do anything of substance.” According to Wala, who specializes in national security law, “It doesn’t ban indefinite detention within the United States or change anything about existing law.”
Congress will have to fully accept the latest NDAA before it is sent to the White House for President Obama to sign. His administration has suggested they would recommend a veto over a separate clause related to the Guantanamo Bay military detention center, although a similar threat was announced last year only for the president to sign the NDAA into law regardless.
UPDATE, Friday, 21 Dec.
Regarding the 2013 NDAA: John McCain, once a prisoner of war himself, believes whomever the sitting president is should have the right to lock up Americans indefinitely.
Of the four main negotiators on the defense bill, only one of the Democrats, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), opposes domestic indefinite detention of Americans. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), believes detaining Americans without charge or trial is constitutional, and only voted for the Feinstein amendment because he and some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate convinced themselves through a convoluted legal rationale that Feinstein’s proposal didn’t actually ban the practice. Both of the main Republican negotiators, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) believe it’s constitutional to lock up American citizens suspected of terrorism without ever proving they’re guilty.
Regarding the Spy on Everyone bill: The renewal of the bill that allows eavesdropping and spying on US citizens, the FISA bill, may be passed without debate in Congress. Our members of Congress appear to be frightened out of their wits. More likely, they are simply play-acting, in the hopes we will buy into it. They want us to be in a constant state of fear – fear of the mythical “Muslim terrorists”, who apparently have an amazing set of super powers and array of weapons, despite the fact that they all seem to inhabit some of the poorest nations in the world. They want us to be afraid of each other. That way, they can continue these Stasi-like programs and use our own money to create a virtual lock-down system, complete with spy cameras aimed at all of us and drones overhead, to keep us docile and wary of each other. And maybe the propaganda and play-acting is paying off. Very few of us seem to object to this shit. Our money, by the way, makes its way into the hands of the best friends these guys have: the clandestine spy agencies and the weapons manufacturers. Some of the remarks from our duly elected bed-wetters in Congress, cited in the FISA article below, remind me of how crazed and deranged Lindsay Graham sounded when he made these statements on the floor of the Senate. (This was at the end of Nov., in a discussion about the NDAA and Guantanamo Bay. I think the writer politely left out Graham’s numerous exclamation points.):
“[…] Under the latest draft of the 2013 NDAA, the Pentagon will be prohibited from using governmental funds to relocate Gitmo detainees to a new facility in the US. The president vowed on the campaign trail leading up to the November 6 election that he would close the infamous military prison under a second term in office, but that promise was one he also waged back in 2008 with so far no sign of following though. Now a renewed interest in shutting-down Gitmo is being used by the White House to justify the administration’s refusal to accept a bill that challenges the draconian legislation that he signed into law and has fought adamantly in appeals court to uphold since.
“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a key figure in getting the indefinite detention provision added to the 2012 NDAA, insisted this week on renewed authorization of that clause while also advocating the continued operation of Guantanamo. Defending America’s current powers to prosecute suspected terrorists by any means necessary, Sen. Graham said both indefinite detention and a prison at Gitmo need remain options on the table for the sake of advancing American dominance in overseas military efforts.
“ ‘When you’re fighting a war, the goal is not to prosecute people, the goal is to win,’ Graham said. ‘How do you win a war? You kill them, you capture them and you interrogate them to find out what they’re up to next.’
“ ‘Simply stated, the American people don’t want to close Guantanamo Bay, which is an isolated, military-controlled facility, to bring these crazy bastards that want to kill us all to the United States,‘ he told fellow senators during Thursday’s vote. ‘Most Americans believe that the people at Guantanamo Bay are not some kind of burglar or bank robber. They are bent on our destruction. And I stand with the American people that we’re under siege, we’re under attack and we’re at war.‘ […]” http://on.rt.com/157v7j
Bear in mind that he is talking about prisoners who have been held for over ten years now without trials, tortured until broken, and many of whom are known to be innocent.
The FISA bill:
A Republican lawmaker is urging his colleagues in the Senate to approve without debate a bill that reaffirms the government’s power to place warrantless wiretaps on US citizens.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) asked his fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week to quickly reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) before the end of the year. Should Congress fail to renew FISA by December 31, the amendments that were added to the bill in 2008 will expire and with it will be hindered the government’s ability to monitor the emails and phone calls of US citizens.
Under the FISA Amendment Act of 2008 (FAA), the government can eavesdrop on any online or over-the-phone communication, even of US citizens, as long as at least one party is reasonably believed to be residing outside of the United States. If that wasn’t evasive enough, though, the National Security Agency (NSA) has refused to answer questions from members of the country’s own intelligence community about how the act is applied.
Earlier this year, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) were told by the NSA that the agency would be unwilling to fulfill their request for information on how many Americans have been targeted under the FAA.
“All that Senator Udall and I are asking for is a ballpark estimate of how many Americans have been monitored under this law, and it is disappointing that the Inspectors General cannot provide it,” Sen. Wyden told Wired’s Danger Room back in June. “If no one will even estimate how many Americans have had their communications collected under this law then it is all the more important that Congress act to close the ‘back door searches’ loophole, to keep the government from searching for Americans’ phone calls and emails without a warrant.”
Despite warnings from Sen. Wyden and others, though, the House of Representatives approved a renewal of FISA in September. Since then, the Senate has been tasked with reassessing the bill and determining if an extension should be granted to keep both FISA and its 2008 amendments on the books for another five years. With only days left before the bill expires, though, a solid discussion on the FAA seems unlikely to occur in Washington.
On Tuesday, December 18, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) asked his peers to push forward with FISA debates so that the matter of renewing or not the FAA can occur before the new year.
“FISA, this is an important piece of legislation as imperfect as it is, it is necessary to protect us from the evil in this world,” Sen. Reid said, according to The Hill. “We need to finish this by the end of the week.”
Sen. Reid’s call to act was rejected by Sen. Chambliss, though, who claimed that FISA is in fact so important that it should be renewed without any consideration. [Teri’s note: Obviously, Chambliss felt Reid did not authentically sound quite frightened enough in his own remarks to pass muster.]
The Hill reports:
“Reid wanted S. 3276 to be considered with a limited number of amendments, but Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) objected and said he didn’t understand why the Senate couldn’t just pass the House FISA bill. He referred to a letter stating that the Obama administration supports the House-version.”
According to The Hill, Sen. Reid responded by reminding the floor that renewing FISA could have implications that are worth reassessing before a vote is held without debate.
“I will continue to work on a path forward,” Reid said. “But Christmas is not more important than this legislation. I hope I’m not offending anyone, but it isn’t.”
Days earlier, US News & World Report quoted Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) as saying, “Citizens generally assume our government is not spying on them,” but, “If they had any inkling of how this system really works, the details of which I cannot discuss, they would be profoundly appalled.”
During House debates in September, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) had harsh words for FISA, saying, “Everyone becomes suspect when big brother is listening.”
“We’ve been told that we can’t even tell how many people are being subjected to this process located in the United States, and that we don’t know and they can’t tell us,” Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan ) pleaded earlier in the year in response to FISA talks. “I think we can get a little bit closer. There can be some reasonableness. It’s this kind of vagueness that creates in those of us in the Congress, suspicions that are negative rather than suspicions that are positive.”
“Why can’t we know how many people are affected by FISA amendment act in the US?” Rep Conyers asked. “This kind of vagueness creates suspicions.”[…]
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the sponsor of the FAA renewal, has claimed “Foreign nations continue to spy on America to plot cyber-attacks and attempt to steal sensitive information from our military and private sector industries,” and that Congress has “a solemn responsibility to ensure that the intelligence community can gather the information” necessary to hinder these attempts.
Earlier this year, Obama-appointed Attorney General Eric Holder defended the act, saying FISA “ensures that the government has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and to respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security.”
UPDATE 2, Saturday, 22 Dec.:
The 2013 NDAA has passed the House and Senate and now heads to the White House for Obama’s signature. The Senate passed it by a vote of 81 – 14 and then scampered away to start their Christmas vacation. Lindsay Graham will be spending his vacation in his new state-of-the-art survival pod next door to Dick Cheney’s. Strange as it seems, Rand Paul sounded like the most sane person on the floor before the vote was taken.
The Senate passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that was stripped of a prohibition of the indefinite military detention of US citizens on American soil by an 81-14 vote on Friday, but only after a furious dissent on the chamber’s floor by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who called it an “abomination.”
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 will now head to the White House, which had earlier pledged to veto the NDAA because it prevents the president from closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. It is unclear whether the president will follow through on the threat.
The NDAA is a reauthorization of the large budget bill that sets the budget for a wide range of military activities, but it has proven most controversial for a provision that critics say would allow the military to abuse its detention powers to lock Americans away on the mere suspicion of support for terrorist groups.
In November, a bipartisan group of Senators affixed an amendment to the NDAA that would have explicitly prohibited the military from detaining American citizens on US soil. But earlier this week, a House-Senate conference committee led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stripped away that measure.
Paul, a libertarian Republican, voiced his opposition to the conference committee’s move in strong terms and urged his colleagues to vote against the bill.
“We had protection in this bill. We passed an amendment that specifically said if you were an American citizen or here legally in the country, you would get a trial by jury,” Paul said. “It’s been removed because they want the ability to hold American citizens without trial in our country. This is so fundamentally wrong and goes against everything we stand for as a country that it can’t go unnoticed.”
“When you’re accused of a crime in our country you get a trial, you get a trial by a jury of your peers, no matter how heinous your crime is, no matter how awful you are, we give you a trial,” he said. “This bill takes away that right and says that if someone thinks you’re dangerous, we will hold you without a trial. It’s an abomination.”
Citing past examples of injustice in America, including the military internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, Paul asked, “will America only begin to regret our loss of trial by jury when the people have names like Smith and Jones?”
He also pointed out the open-ended nature of the so-called “war on terror,” which has now gone on for more than 11 years and shows no sign of letting up, even after the killing of Osama bin Laden. “When will your rights be restored if the battle has no end, and the battlefield is limitless, and the war is endless?” Paul asked.
But top Senators in support of the bill dismissed Paul’s charges as bogus, claiming that language in the NDAA preserves Americans’ constitutional right to trial by jury. Only when they ally themselves with foreign terrorist powers, they said, do Americans abdicate their rights as citizens.
Supporters of the NDAA like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) pointed to new language in the conference committee report stipulating that “nothing” in the bill could construed to deny people of their rights in court — language that civil liberties advocates dismissed as meaningless, since the controversy is over whether those suspected of terrorism are afforded the right to trial in the first place.
In defense of the bill and in response to Paul’s claims, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said, “I don’t mind saying I think we’re at war.”
“How long does that war last? I don’t know. I can’t tell you. Am I supposed to know that? Can we not fight it unless we know the date it ends? America, is it part of the battlefield?” Graham said. “What do you think al Qaeda would love to do more than anything else? Come here and destroy the building I am speaking in.”
The 14 Senators who voted nay are: Grassley, Harkin, Crapo, Risch, Durbin, Rand, Franken, Merkley, Wyden, Lee, Leahy, Sanders, Barrasso, and Enzi. (Thank you for the token interest in civil rights there, guys. Too bad every one of you voted yea on last year’s NDAA, thus setting up the basic outline for this year’s.)
This bill authorizes $633.3 billion for Pentagon budget. Which just goes to show that in some cases, the deficit and the ‘fiscal cliff’ don’t really matter all that much. It depends on whether you are talking about spending money on helping the elderly, the unemployed, the poor, the halt, and the lame – which is bad, bad, bad spending, or if you are talking about spending money on just killing a whole bunch of these losers outright all over the globe – which is good spending. Priorities, people.
In yesterday’s update, I included an article which showed that Obama and Holder both support the renewal of the FISA bill. For a little more on Eric Holder and his bewildering interpretation of US law, see this: http://endthelie.com/2012/12/13/attorney-general-secretly-gave-government-power-to-create-store-dossiers-on-innocent-americans/#axzz2FmLJOIV0