With Obama Prepared to Sign, Pennsylvania Senators Get ‘TwitterBombed’ over Defense Bill
President Barack Obama said yesterday he was backpeddling on his months-long threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which, many contend, gives the U.S. military the right to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens as part of the war on terror. As we’ve noted, both Pennsylvania senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey not only voted in favor of the $662 billion NDAA, but against two amendments which would have removed or edited Sections 1031 and 1032, which include vague language on the detention of terrorism suspects.
With Obama’s signature imminent, several citizens are attempting to hit Pennsylvania’s senators—and all senators/congressmen who voted for the bill—where it hurts: Twitter.
One user asks Bob Casey: “Hey @senbobcasey PENNSYLVANIA – Bob Casey, Jr. Why DO YOU Commit Treason? #NDAA #TwitterBomb”
Another writes, “U vote FOR NDAA ? #SHAME @sentoomey PENNSYLVANIA – Pat Toomey @senbobcasey PENNSYLVANIA – Bob Casey, Jr”
“PENNSYLVANIA – Pat Toomey and Bob Casey Why DO YOU Commit Treason? #NDAA #TwitterBomb”
“PENNSYLVANIA – Pat Toomey How Dare U Vote Against The Rights of We The People #NDAA #Ows #TwitterBomb”
Websites have popped up around the Internet, encouraging Twitterbombs of all lawmakers who voted in favor of this bill. Neither Pennsylvania senators have responded to their Twitter followers about the NDAA.
While Casey has not responded for comment on his votes regarding detention, Toomey recently spoke to Northeast Pennsylvania radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh on this issue. He told that host the bill includes due process for terrorism suspects and Americans cannot be held indefinitely.
Toomey called accusations that American citizens or anyone could be detained by the U.S. military without due process “factually wrong.”
“There is a federal judicial review,” he said. “There’s a federal judge who is from a independent agency, not from the Executive Branch, who will opine on this. The person will have an attorney who will make an argument about whether or not he or she is in fact part of [al Qaeda or] one of these affiliated groups and have a periodic review opportunity on this.”
He called any suggestion that this bill would detain American citizens affiliated with Occupy or Tea Party groups “so far beyond what this legislation authorizes.”
If legislation which allowed for detaining dissenting Americans were brought before Congress, he said, “There should be an immediate and overwhelming response to prevent that.”
Toomey’s own rhetoric isn’t and shouldn’t be enough to satisfy critics.
The ACLU, for instance, has long argued this bill will allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens in the name of fighting terror. As they wrote last night, the bill contains “harmful provisions that some legislators have said could authorize the U.S. military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including American citizens, anywhere in the world.”
Human Rights Watch said that Obama’s decision to sign the bill “does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the US and abroad” and that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”
But not everyone sees it that way. Legislators like Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, a lawyer and ranking Democrat of the Armed Services Committee, posted a PDF to his site saying, “These provisions do not extend any new authorities to detain U.S. citizens and explicitly exempt U.S. citizens from provisions related to military custody of terrorists.”
He also notes, the bill “Reaffirms the lawful detention of individuals from al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces engaged in armed conflict with the United States, without extending new authority to detain U.S. citizens.”
Problem is, the word “new” may be the real dilemma.
As Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald noted, the American citizen detention language in the bill is likely vague on purpose. According to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, those powers already exist and have been vehemently argued for by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
“[T]he original 2001 AUMF already empowers them to imprison people without charges, use force against even U.S. citizens without due process (Anwar Awlaki), and target not only members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (as the law states) but also anyone who “substantially supports” those groups and/or “associated forces” (whatever those terms mean),” Greenwald writes. “That’s why this bill states that it does not intend to change the 2001 AUMF (even as it codifies far broader language defining the scope of the war) or the detention powers of the President.”
Rep. Smith, according to the Huffington Post, seconds this opinion. “If you have a problem with indefinite detention, that is a problem with current law,” he said. “The problems that people have, and I share some of them, are with existing law, not with this bill. Defeat this bill, and that will not change a piece of that existing law that we’ve heard about that we should all be concerned about.”