Do Pennsylvania’s Representatives Support Turning U.S. into a ‘Battlefield’?
The 2012 Defense Authorization Bill has become the object of scorn by the White House and many civil rights groups due to a provision that some say would allow the U.S. military to assert “battlefield” rules on U.S. soil and imprison American citizens without charge or trial.
The bill, S 1867, was drafted “in secret,” by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich) and John McCain (R-Ariz) of the Senate Armed Services Committee and passed “in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing,” according to the ACLU. The group contends the bill “will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.”
Sound a bit hysterical? Maybe. But according to a November 15 Associated Press report, the White House, which has been pretty accommodating to Bush-era legislation like the Patriot Act, expressed concerns over the bill’s detainee provisions and threatened to veto the bill, should it make its way to the president’s desk due to supposed requirements of military, and not criminal, detention.
The provision of interest “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,” according to the Washington Post.
Sens. McCain and Levin insist there’s nothing to worry about. According to an op/ed they co-wrote in the Washington Post today, the provision on detainees “represent a careful, bipartisan effort to provide the executive branch the clear authority, tools and flexibility of action it needs to defend us against the threat posed by al-Qaeda.” They also say the narrow group of people who could be detained in military custody only include “al-Qaeda terrorists who participate in planning or conducting attacks against us.” Though they say the president would be able to waive the provision if s/he believes civilian custody would better serve national security.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield” and Sen. Lindsey Graham, in support of the bill, stated it will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield.”
There is the potential for relief in what’s called the Udall Amendment, written by Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, which would allow “the Senate to say no to indefinite detention without charge or trial anywhere in the world where any president decides to use the military,” according to the ACLU, who also notes it “sets up an orderly review of detention power.”
Both Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey were contacted for this article. Neither have responded as of press time.
In June, Sens. Bob Casey and Claire McCaskill sent a letter to Sens. Levin and McCain asking the National Defense Authorization Act “ensure fair practices in the competition for federal contracts,” according to a press release.
Sen. Toomey has not commented on the bill publicly, though on November 18, 2011, replied to a constituent named Brian Clark who asked about the National Defense Authorization Act. He wrote, in part, “The most important responsibility of the federal government is to defend the United States and protect the American people. I am therefore committed to ensuring that our armed forces and the rest of the national security community have the resources and tools they need to fulfill their missions. During these challenging fiscal times, I also understand that the Pentagon and our nation’s defense spending warrant careful scrutiny to make sure that taxpayer dollars are prudently spent.”
Reports say a vote could come to the Senate floor today or tomorrow.
UPDATE: Mother Jones reports a vote is expected on Wednesday.