National Defense Authorization Bill Makes Unlikely Allies; Casey Office Responds
The National Defense Authorization Act Bill, which many believe could make way for the “infinite detention” of U.S. citizens in the name of fighting terrorism, has made allies out of unlikely members of Congress.
A provision of the bill, as we wrote yesterday, would require military custody — rather using than the U.S. Justice system — of a suspect determined to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates, involved in the planning of an attack on the United States. (Though the president is allowed to waive that requirement if s/he sees it fit.) This, some believe, would allow police state tactics on American soil upon American citizens. Supporters of the bill, like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have gleefully stated it makes “the homeland part of the battlefield.” The Obama Administration has threatened a veto.
In addition to Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall’s amendment, which would allow the Senate to get rid of the “indefinite detention without charge or trial anywhere in the world where any president decides to use the military,” as the ACLU put it, there’s Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) amendment, which would simply eliminate Section 1031 of the Bill. That section states, “Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force…includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons…Detention under the law of war without trial.”
Sen. Udall wrote in the Washington Post today, “If the Senate passes this legislation in a vote expected this week, we risk harming our ability to combat terrorism and weakening our national security.”
The bill has been controversial since its inception in the House, in which 91 Democrats and five Republicans voted against it. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), one of the Republicans to vote against the bill, called it “one of the most anti-liberty pieces of legislation in our lifetime.” He also said the bill is “carefully crafted to mislead the public.”
Where, then, does Pennsylvania’s representation stand? Back in May, when the House passed the bill with 322 “aye” votes, that included Philly-area Reps. Bob Brady, Pat Meehan, Mike Fitzpatrick, and Allyson Schwartz—but not Chaka Fattah. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pitt) was the only other Pennsylvania Representative to vote against the bill.
Now that it’s in the Senate, and will soon be up for a vote, we checked in with both Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. Both have been contacted by PW more than once. Only one—Casey—has responded. His Communications Director, Larry Smar, writes by email: “The bill is currently on the floor with a number of amendments pending and being debated. Debate should go on for the next couple of days which will affect the content of the final bill.”
Which, hey, if you were worried about the bill before, probably won’t curb your anxiety.