Just In Time For 2012 The Senate Revives The War On Terror’s Assault On Liberty

Nov 28 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

You thought it was bad that they wouldn’t fund the closure of Gitmo? They’re bringing their battlefield mentality to our soil now.

This week, the Senate is taking up for debate whether or not to grant the President the power to send the military after terror suspects and hold them without trial or charges, even here in the “homeland,” where in theory, the military could be patrolling our streets if they get their way this week.

Gee, that sounds great.

This horror story is part of the yearly appropriations bill for the Defense Authorization bill, and the particular sections causing the grief are 1031 and 1032, co-authored by John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI). Yes, a Democrat is behind this attempted assault. We never expected anything else from John McCain, who would have bombed Russia during the 2008 campaign on a mistaken whim. Luckily the people had had more than enough of war hawks and so Russia escaped unscathed. But apparently Americans aren’t so lucky.

The Pentagon’s general counsel and Attorney General Eric Holder both say that the provisions in question could lead to unintended consequences, but that’s not stopping some in the Senate from their war on civil liberties. At issue is a section giving the President “the authority to indefinitely imprison people, without charge or trial, both abroad and inside the United States and would mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control.”

The Washington Post reported on the objections of some Democrats last week:

Dividing the Democrats and drawing criticism from the administration is a provision that would require military custody of a suspect determined to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates and involved in the planning or an attack on the United States. The administration argues that such a step would hamper efforts by the FBI or other law enforcement to elicit intelligence from terror suspects.

Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that the United States must have the flexibility to prosecute terror suspects in criminal courts. White House counterterror chief John Brennan has argued for a case-by-case approach in prosecuting terrorist suspects. The Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, also has said there is a “danger in over-militarizing our approach to al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

In favor of the bill we find the usual suspects. The ACLU reports:

In support of this harmful bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.”

The White House is threatening to veto the egregious sections, writing in part (emphasis mine):

The Administration strongly objects to the military custody provision of section 1032, which would appear to mandate military custody for a certain class of terrorism suspects. This unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial restriction of the President’s authority to defend the Nation from terrorist threats would tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals. Moreover, applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the United States, as some Members of Congress have suggested is their intention, would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.

Mark Udall (D-CO) drafted an amendment that would kill the most egregious parts of the bill.

The real question here is given the President’s success in taking out terrorists without a Bushian reliance on the military but rather a broader based approach depending more upon intelligence, why are some in the Senate still pushing an over-militarized approach as the best way to keep America safe?

The “war on terror” has never made sense; you don’t declare war on an idea and expect success. It seems Republicans always find a way to use their incompetence (failure to read intel, failure to get Osama, etc) to justify further assaults on liberty. And sadly, it’s no surprise that we have a Democrat willing to assist them in this pseudo patriotic (read: nationalistic militarization only an authoritarian could love) push.

Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy and Mark Udall tried to stop the provisions to no avail. While the Senate is looking to fast track this by Thursday, if Udall’s provisions aren’t added, the President can veto it provided it even gets enough votes to pass. A cloture vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

McCain and Levin argue that their provision is being misinterpreted, claiming there is a waiver the President could issue (so they are for expanded powers for the executive office, leaving it up to whoever is president to decide where to draw the line– comforting this is not). Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says this is not so.

When the Pentagon, the AG, the Secretary of Defense and the White House all came out against their provisions, the Senators should have just admitted they were poorly written or ill-thought out. But no. We will waste time and money on these provisions while jobs are ignored.

All of this effort it keep us “safe” – but are we safe? They want to give the executive branch even larger powers and weaken the checks and balances even further, as if this will somehow keep us safer. They’re essentially doubling down on an approach that has already failed.

Americans need to know why some members of the Senate think that the war on terror gives them the right to keep coming after the rights of citizens to the extent where they are pushing to have the military patrolling our streets.

It seems they are blind to the reactions of the police abuses of first amendment rights already happening in this country. They must really think we are just going to sit here and swallow even more theft of our civil liberties, just because they label it part of the war on terror.

Not only are Americans a bit more concerned right now with the war on economic justice, but we have not been asleep for the past ten years. We have seen how the Obama Doctrine has been more successful in the war on terror than the Bush Doctrine. So why is the senate pushing the failed Bush Doctrine still and in doing so, advocating expanding the powers of the executive office?

Some in the Senate appear eager to give more money and power to the military, but equally unwilling to work on jobs for the people. We are already moving perilously close to the militarization of the police, we don’t need the actual military patrolling our streets looking for terror suspects they can detain without charges and send to military prisons. And who is going to determine who is a terror suspect and who is not? Oh, that’s right. The President.

The Republicans must be hopeful about 2012 and be quite confident that Obama is not going to abuse this power in a way that they would find problematic (cough). I suppose Fox will manage to sell this power grab as “small government” somehow.

It’s bad enough with any president and wrong to use a failed approach to the “war on terror” in order to justify expanding the powers of the executive branch even further than they were under Bush, but imagine a President Romney, Gingrich, Perry or Bachmann deciding whether or not someone is a terror suspect and whether or not they want to send the military to detain that person.

We need less powers for the executive branch, not more. We still have a long way to go post-Bush debacle in order to restore balance to our government.

Image: Another war on terror blog

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