Senate Passes National Defense Authorization Act; PA Sens. Have No Response on Indefinite Incarceration Provision
We’ve been contacting both Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey all week to get the rationale behind their Tuesday votes in favor of Section 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Act. This section, according to some critics, essentially turns the entirety of the United States into part of the “battlefield” in the War on Terror and, therefore, permits the military to indefinitely detain any American perceived to be a threat. UPDATE: The provision was finally altered to exempt “American citizens.” According to Time, “Lengthy negotiations produced a face-saving move that the Senate backed 99-1, a measure that said nothing in the bill changes current law relating to the detention of U.S. citizens and legal aliens.” The Senate also blocked an amendment that would limit military custody to those terror suspects caught overseas, the goal of which was to make sure “the military won’t be roaming our streets looking for suspected terrorists.” But the fact remains: Section 1031 is still intact.
Two amendments — one by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and the other by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — were offered to amend this section further, though both failed with the help of Pennsylvania’s senators. The defense bill passed the Senate last night.
Neither Democratic Senator Bob Casey, nor Republican Senator Pat Toomey have responded to PW’s calls for comment on this issue. Neither have commented to other news sources or on their websites, either.
Casey’s office sent out a press release praising the passage of the bill, though did not mention his votes in favor of Section 1031. Instead, his office wrote of the amendments Pennsylvania’s Democrat added to the bill, such as “Hold Pakistan Accountable on IEDs,” “Strengthen the National Guard” and “Require Sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.”
Before the final vote, Sen. Rand Paul claimed passage of the defense bill would result in, “American citizens being sent to Guantanamo Bay…This should be alarming to everyone watching this proceeding today. Because it puts every single American citizen at risk.”
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) called the bill “one of the most anti-liberty pieces of legislation in our lifetime.” Amash was one of five Republicans to vote against the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act. Philadelphia Congressman Bob Brady voted for the bill.
One of the Senators enthusiastically in favor of the Provision to the bill is Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). She claimed the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.” Ayotte is reportedly on a short list of Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s potential running mates.
The final Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act passed 93-7. In addition to voting against both amendments, the Pennsylvania Democrat and Republican Senators voted in favor of the final version of the bill.
The White House has stated it will veto the bill due to the provision, but not necessarily for the reasons most critics are concerned with. They instead believe that the bill takes power away from the president and hands it to the military: “Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.”
Not everyone believes President Obama will issue his promised veto. Daphne Eviator of the Human Rights First’s Law and Security Program says issuing a veto may be difficult.
“Whether he [Obama] will [veto the bill] is a difficult question because, politically, it’s difficult to veto a defense spending bill that’s 680 pages long and includes authorization to spend on a whole range of military programs,” she writes.
ACLU senior legislative counsel Christopher Anders said in a statement, “The bill is an historic threat to American citizens and others because it expands and makes permanent the authority of the president to order the military to imprison without charge or trial American citizens.”
Anders also noted that if this bill becomes law, American citizens and others are at risk of being locked away by the military without charge or trial.