Executive Branch could retain right to lock up civilians indefinitely in military custody
The National Defense Authorization Act could be approved as early as this week
The National Defense Authorization Act, which would give President Obama
the ultimate authority to detain American citizens indefinitely in
military custody is expected to pass this week.
In an effort to soothe those worried about American liberties, the Senate had already added a provision that said the detainee measure will not affect current law
The conference committee has since added and amended several provisions in an attempt to produce legislation that would pass muster with President Barack Obama, who appealed for fixes.
The version released this week still contains the authority to indefinitely imprison suspects linked to al Qaeda or associated groups, including citizens captured in the United States.
"We have [in the bill] the authority to detain without charge or trial terrorism suspects," Raha Wala, a lawyer with the Law and Security Program of the group Human Rights First says. "There aren't any material changes to the indefinite detention provision," he said.
Lawmakers had since shifted the responsibility for granting waivers under the legislation from the Defense Department to the president. They also added language to state that civilian law enforcement retains the authority to investigate and interrogate terrorism suspects, even though the bill requires that those suspects be held by the military.
Opponents argue that while agencies like the FBI would still be allowed to investigate in theory, the compromise could prove unworkable in practice. Critics question how civilian authorities will work with their military counterparts, who could take over any terror-related case unless the president grants a waiver.
"What does that actually mean in practice?" Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network says. "It's unclear, and the people who have to implement it think it's unclear, and it's just inviting years of litigation. . . .In some ways, it makes it even worse."
"The national security establishment really comprehensively rejects these provisions as representing the militarization of our justice system," Hurlburt added. "You're deliberately throwing things back into the courts, which is a very strange thing to be seeing."
Supporters argue that the bill is designed to spell out what is already being done so that there is less uncertainty surrounding counterterrorism efforts. They say that the military needs clear authority to ensure that the ever-changing terrorist threat can be met.
In the words of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the bill affirms that "the homeland is part of the battlefield."
In an effort to soothe those worried about American liberties, the Senate had already added a provision that said the detainee measure will not affect current law regarding Americans.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: National Defense Authorization Act, terrorism, Act, Congress, President Obama
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