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December 14th, 2011
Senate Wants the Military to Lock You Up Without Trial

Over at Wired, Spencer Ackerman gives us the long and short of things:

''There are still changes swirling around the Senate, but this looks like the basic shape of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. 

Someone the government says is ''a member of, or part of, al-Qaida or an associated force'' can be held in military custody ''without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.''

Those hostilities are currently scheduled toend the Wednesday after never.  The move would shut down criminal trials for terror suspects.

But far more dramatically, the detention mandate to use indefinite military detention in terrorism cases isn’t limited to foreigners.

It's confusing, because two different sections of the bill seem to contradict each other, but in the judgment of the University of Texas' Robert Chesney--a nonpartisan authority on military detention-- ''Us. citizens are included in the grant of detention authority.''

An amendment that would limit military detentions to people captured overseas failed on Thursday afternoon.  The Senate soundly defeated a measure to strip out all the detention provisions on Tuesday.

So despite the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a right to trial, the Senate bill would let the government lock up any citizen it swears is a terrorist, without the burden of proving its case to an independent judge, and for the lifespan of an amorphous war that conceivably will never end. 

And because the Senate is using the bill that authorizes funding for the military as its vehicle for this dramatic constitutional claim, it's pretty likely to pass.

''Weirder still, the bill's chief architect, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), tried to persuade skeptics that the bill wasn't so bad.

His pitch?

''The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States,'' he said on the Senate floor on Monday. 

The bill would just let the government detain a citizen in military custody, not force it to do that.

Reassured yet?




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