Senate Gives Power to Military to Detain, Imprison, Torture and Kill Americans

Washington Times
November 30, 2011

Defying a veto threat by President Obama, the Senate voted Tuesday to give the U.S. military first crack at holding al Qaeda operatives, even if they are captured in the U.S. and are American citizens, and also reaffirmed the policy of indefinite detention.

“We’re no longer going to have an absurd result that if we capture you overseas where you’re planning an attack on the United States, we can blow you up or put you in a military prison indefinitely, but if you make it to America, all of a sudden you get Miranda rights and you go to federal court,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has fought the Bush and Obama administrations on treatment of suspected terrorist detainees.

Tuesday’s 61-37 vote to buck Mr. Obama and grant the military dibs exposed a deep rift within the Democratic Party. Sixteen Democrats and one independent who caucuses with them defied the veto threat and joined 44 Republicans.

The vote was the latest chapter in a debate that has raged since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks plunged the U.S. into the war on terrorism and created the problem of how to handle self-professed enemies who belong to shadowy terrorist groups when they are caught far from traditional battlefields.

In a deal between Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and the ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the military is given custody of anyone who has planned or carried out an attack against the U.S. and its allies, or who is deemed to be a member of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates. The compromise gives the administration the authority to waive military custody but only if top Cabinet officials certify that national security dictates civilian control.

Mr. Obama and his top advisers fought the provisions, arguing that it amounted to micromanaging the war on terrorism. The administration said it should be able to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the military or civilian law enforcement is better able to handle a situation.

“The best method for securing vital intelligence from suspected terrorists varies depending on the facts and circumstances of each case,” Director of National IntelligenceJames R. Clapper wrote in a letter to senators detailing the administration’s objections.

He said the national security waiver given to the administration still doesn’t allow enough flexibility.

The White House this month threatened to veto the legislation if it “challenges or constrains the president’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the nation.” An official on Tuesday said that threat still stands.

The bill also recodifies existing law on indefinite detention and the right of the administration to try suspected terrorists in military commissions rather than civilian courts — authority that the Bush and Obama administrations have exercised, but which Mr. Levin said he wanted to reiterate. Mr. Levin said the administration thought the restatement unnecessary, but didn’t object to the language.

Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat, tried to strip the detention and the military custody provisions from the bill and replace them with a call for further study of the issue.

“We’re ignoring the advice and the input of the director of the FBI, the director of our intelligence community, the attorney general of the United States,” Mr. Udall said.

His effort won the support of two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mark Kirk of Illinois, both of whom won their seats in last year’s elections.

Among the Democrats who bucked the administration were members of the Armed Services Committee, and also a host of lawmakers who hold politically vulnerable seats up for election next year. Among them were Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

The fight was part of a broader debate over the annual defense policy bill, which is considered one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation Congress considers each year.

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S.1867: The Power to Detain, Imprison, Torture and Kill American Citizens Anywhere

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
November 30, 2011

A new bill presented in the US Senate (S.1867) The National Defense Authorization Act, states that the President of the United States, whomever it is, can indefinitely detain, imprison, torture and murder anyone if he or she is considered a suspect of anything the US government wants to make up. The detention, imprisonment, torture and murder will occur without the person having been charged and without a trial. People can be picked up anywhere inside or outside the United States.

The recently approved law  is such a threat to the liberties and freedoms of the people, which its authors supposedly intend to protect by giving the president the power cited above, that fellow senators have taken to the Senate floor to seek support for amendments that eliminate the portion of the text that allows any president to detain anyone in the manner explained above.

Senator Rand Paul is one of those trying to preserve what many consider key liberties and freedoms protected by the Unites States Constitution. On the Senate floor, Mr. Paul reminded his colleagues that it is never a good idea to exchange liberty for security.  He also explained that taking the citizens’ right to be formally accused and found guilty in a court of law, as supposed to simply be designated as a suspect who can be abducted and taken away forever, would be equal to having let the terrorists win.

The most controversial part of the law reads “Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons pending depositions under the law of war.” Where is the beef many of you may think. It doesn’t say people can be tortured or killed! Well, the killing part had already been implemented earlier, when the President was awarded the power to take on and kill anyone who was found fighting with a terrorist group; even if it was an American citizen. That is how Mr. Anwar al-Awlaki, the CIA agent and supposed Al-Qaeda member was taken down.

But specifically in this newly approved law, the concept of giving the President power to decide when to use the Armed Forces to abduct and keep anyone within the US territory or abroad is clearly renewed. But not before trying to hide it from the public view. Earlier this month, Senator Lindsey Graham took to the floor of the Senate to clear the air regarding what the new bill would allow the President to do. “…the military custody provision, which has wavers and a lot of flexibility, doesn’t apply to American citizens. Section 1031 does apply to American citizens, and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.” In other words, anyone can now be detained in the US or abroad, as determined by the President, and be held without charges for an indefinite period of time. This treatment was only applied to prisoners of war (POW) many of which were sent to the Abu Ghraib prison and to Guantamo Bay in Cuba.

Other Senators like Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire, also defended S.1867 saying that “We are simply saying that you have the option to make sure you can put together intelligence gathering as the top priority.” Besides Lindsey Graham and Mrs. Ayotte, Bill sponsors included Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, and Carl Levin, a democrat Senior Senator. Although President Obama has threatened to veto the new law if the indefinite detention section is not removed, an amendment to do exactly that failed last night on the Senate floor, and the Bill, with the illegal detention provision and all,  was approved in its original form.

The legal situation for citizens in the United States and abroad gets even more serious when put into perspective. That is, when revising recent laws, provisions, presidential powers and law enforcement training literature. In fact, there has been an open plan to use the US military on the streets of the United States, and the military has already been put on the streets indeed. They have been seen on local roads and highways accompanied by local police stopping vehicles and requesting that drivers let them illegally search their cars. Along with these actions, the MIAC and Homeland Security reports state that the current drive to putting the military on the streets and highways has nothing to do with terrorism, but that it is all for American citizens themselves. It’s all about retired veterans, gun owners, libertarians, people who protests against government and its policies, war activists and so on.

“Just a few years ago they said, well that’s preposterous. We don’t want to use the marines and army against the American people. That’s tyranny, it’s a third world country, that is Martial Law.  Now they are well yes, we want to keep you safe from Al-Qaeda,” explains radio talk show host Alex Jones, who has spent the best part of the past 16 years talking about governments grabbing power uncontrollably and how that power is usually then employed to oppress the citizens. Jones stated on Russia Today television that the new law has a section that says that Americans are exempted from the detention, imprisonment, torture and murder, but that later it has another section that clearly states that the exemption goes as far as the President and the Army say so. In other words, the exemption can be waived at any point in time. Alex Jones’ observation is supported by Congressman Justin Amash, who said “It is carefully crafted to mislead the public.”

The passage of this Bill on the Senate floor spells the end of the Rule of Law as well as the end of Posse Comitatus, which prohibits the use of the United States Army on US soil. Quoting James Madison, Senator Rand Paul warned the Senate last night that “The means to defense against foreign dangers historically have become instruments of tyranny at home,” and then added Abraham Lincoln’s take on the importance of true liberty and freedom: “America will never be destroyed form the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed it ourselves.”

The Junior Senator from Kentucky said that during conflicts there have always been struggles to keep and protect civil liberties, such as Habeas Corpus and Freedom of the Press. Mr. Paul warned that rights and liberties being given away now would hardly come back as it happened in the past for the simple reason that the State itself has managed to maintain a constant state of war and conflict. “These rights we may give up now, may never be restores.” said Senator Paul.

The whole basis of the law is to, under the President’s directive, give the military the power to arrest people suspected of being associated with a determined terrorist group. The detention and further police actions imposed on the suspects would waive the due process, one of the most important pillars of any democratic nation; the right to be formally accused and tried in a court of law, in the presence of a judge and a jury of peers and the right to defend oneself in that court of law. Again, the law clearly states that this applies to American citizens at home and abroad. “This proposal is reminiscent of what Egypt did with its permanent emergency law,”  highlighted Senator Paul.

As the law stands now in the United States, legislation passed by the US Congress already declares it a crime to aid a terrorist or a terrorist organization in any way, shape or form. Anyone who is detained, prosecuted and found guilty for violating the Material Assistance Prohibition. “Jose Padilla was convicted and sentences to 17 years in prison for conspiring to provide material assistance to Al-Qaeda,” asserted congressman Paul. S.1867 will only have the House of Representatives as the last hope to vote it down, because although President Obama has said he would veto it, the truth is Obama himself has approved much of what is written on the National Defense Authorization Act, that is, secret arrests and torture of detainees. These measures are approved under the Military Commissions Act and the Patriot Act, whose powers have been enhanced since George W. Bush first approved it. So no, we cannot count on the current US President to stop the implementation of practices such as the detainment, imprisonment, torture and murder of American citizens neither at home nor abroad.

You can be grabbed and no one ever even knows where you go forever“, warned Alex Jones on Russia Today.

Perhaps one of the most telling facts about S.1867, is that no one on the American press is talking about it. Only so called alternative news media and foreign media are addressing the fact that people in Congress want to enable the military to run the country. But this behavior by the main stream media is not a surprise, as it has done the same regarding other news that directly affect Americans at home and abroad. For example, while foreign media, or American media published and distributed overseas describes the rise of the citizenry of the world against austerity measures, banker bailouts, the conflict in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria against American and NATO bombings in their countries, local American media concentrates on diversions such as how many women accuse Herman Cain of sexual harassment, when will the NBA season start or how many years in prison did Michael Jackson’s get after being found guilty.  The mainstream press hasn’t even talked much about some Congressmen and Congresswomen insider trading corruption cases, where they and their relatives have taken advantage of information to invest and divest their monies successfully with the help of insiders from Wall Street. Neither has the main stream media pounded on the fact that John Corzine hasn’t even been called to declare in the financial scandal at MF Global.

They are crooks who want the military to protect their crimes, asserted Alex Jones. A long time ago, the Americans were the best informed people in the developed world, but in recent decades they have become the least informed of all. That is due to the fact that the media has taken it upon themselves to feed only information that makes people play along with an ever more corporate-dominated Washington, DC.

The problems with S.1867 is that it was crafted with dangerously vague terms, giving vague and open-ended powers to those who seek to have them. For example, a decade after 9/11, no one in law enforcement has precisely defined the concept of membership or affiliation to any supposed terrorist organization. As of now, law enforcement uses accusations as the base to run the kind of schemes sought to be imposed through legislation like S.1867. That is so, because most of the accusations made by law enforcement agencies are almost impossible to prove. The consequence of this is that new legislation is crafted with as vague language as possible so that more and more people (suspects) can be included under the new umbrella.

Right now, only people detained in the battlefield can be kept in undisclosed locations for indefinite times. That is why S.1867 seeks to legally label the homeland as part of the battlefield, so that anyone who lives or at any point in time moves around the US territory can be legally abducted and taken away forever without any legal repercussion. The provision that seeks to indefinitely detain any suspect in fact implies a perpetual state of war, because as it has happened with earlier legislation, it does not set limits or goals for conflicts the United States is involved in. The provision says that nothing therein contained implies any restriction in the use of military force. The legislation does not provide for congressional review or any definition as to what victory would be or when would the provisions adopted under S.1867 would end.

“The use of military force must begin in Congress. Congress has the power to declare war, and we shouldn’t give that power to the President. We shouldn’t allow the President to unilaterally engage in war. Congress must reclaim its constitutional duties,” concluded congressman Paul.