Yesterday, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which includes a nakedly unconstitutional provision that give the military power to indefinitely detain anyone deemed a national security threat without evidence or trial. They also rejected the Udall Amendment, which would have removed this part of the bill, by a wide margin of 61 to 37.
Interestingly, nearly all Republicans – the same people who drape themselves in the American flag, revere the constitution as sacred, and shrilly claim to be pro-small government – supported this effort, along with 16 Democrats. I find their justification to be laughable.
”The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United States and [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.
“They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer,” Graham said. “They should be held humanely in military custody and interrogated about why they joined al Qaeda and what they were going to do to all of us.”
Indeed Mr. Graham – presumably one of our more moderate conservatives – but that’s assuming there is even proof that they are terrorists to begin with – that little bit of legal tradition that presumes innocence until *proven* guilty. How would we know the right people are being detained if there is no legal due process? Are we to take the military’s word for it? Where’s the incentive to make legitimate case for detainment if there is no limit to how long someone is held in custody without formal charges?
The problem is that many conservatives revere our military to the point of trusting it’s judgment without any real oversight. But the military is like any other institution – prone to corruption, bureaucracy, and mistakes. That is why our system is so complexly designed with numerous checks and balances and procedural safeguards. Our national security apparatus isn’t even suited for matters of law – that’s what our judicial system is for.
If anyone is curious about who supported these disquieting measures, check this list and feel free to contact them accordingly. Only two Republicans, including the libertarian Rand Paul, son of Ron, voted against the provision. The great state of Florida, where I live, was an even split: our senior Democratic senator Bill Nelson was rightly opposed to the measure, while our junior Republican senator Marco Rubio supported it (some may note the irony of a Cuban-American showing approval of such draconian measures).
Thankfully, the White House has expressed its disapproval and presumably intends to block this measure (not that it hasn’t engaged in its own legally questionable acts – recall the assassination of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, to name but one known example). Even if this struck down, the fact that our representatives would even go through with this bodes ill for the integrity of an already increasingly eroded democratic system. Given the sad historical precedent, there’s little doubt that we’ll be seeing more efforts like this in the future.