By Scott Galindez / Reader Supported News / December 15, 2011
Occupiers from around the country held actions on Wednesday to protest provisions in the Defense Authorization Act, a bill that some civil liberties groups say could lead to the indefinite detention of American citizens by the military. Without a trial, no less.
Occupiers assembled in DC included retired Army Colonel Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in protest of the Iraq war. They went to Senator Carl Levin’s office where they met with his Chief of Staff, David S. Lyles. Wright, who served 27 years in the military, told Lyles that she was afraid that provisions in the bill gave too much power to the military and it was setting a dangerous precedent by allowing the military to participate in civilian law enforcement. Other Occupiers rallied at the White House, calling for the President to veto the legislation.
President Obama originally threatened to veto the bill, but his “concerns” were addressed in conference. Within hours of the mic check the House voted 283-136 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act…despite impassioned opposition that crossed party lines, with Democrats splitting on the bill and more than 40 Republicans opposing it. The Senate is expected to follow suit on Thursday sending the bill to the President’s desk.
While opponents had looked to President Barack Obama to defend what they see as a fresh attack on American freedom, a statement released by White House press secretary Jay Carney dampened those hopes:
“After intensive engagement by senior administration officials and the President himself, the administration has succeeded in prompting the authors of the detainee provisions to make several important changes,” the statement said.
“While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counterterrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the President additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength,” and it continued, “We have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people,” the statement said, although it added that if the uncertainty raised by the legislation does impede investigations, the White House expects lawmakers to write a fix.
One of the major changes was shifting to the White House the responsibility for determining who does not have to be detained forever by the military. In an earlier version of the bill, the Department of Defense made the call. And while the bill makes the military the default investigator for Islamic terrorism cases, new provisions assert that the FBI and other civil law enforcers still have the authority to investigate terrorism and interrogate suspects.
Levin’s Chief of staff David Lyles argued that the provisions only codify existing law created by the Supreme Court in US v Hamdi. When asked if Senator Levin would support legislation to codify the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Lyles said “No”.
Opponents of the indefinite detention provisions have argued that, although it is true Americans have been held, the Supreme Court has not ruled on the validity of those detentions. Writing those practices into law, they argue, goes further than anything the nation’s founders ever would have contemplated.
“We are in danger of losing our most precious heritage not because a band of thugs threatens our freedom, but because we are at risk of forgetting who we are and what makes the United States a truly great nation,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose district includes Ground Zero. “In the last 10 years, we have begun to let go of our freedoms, bit by bit, with each new executive order, court decision and, yes, act of Congress.
“We have begun giving away our rights to privacy, our right to our day in court when the government harms us, and, with this legislation, we are continuing down the path of destroying the right to be free from imprisonment without due process of law,” Nadler added.
Occupiers in Washington DC have called for another round of protests around the country on Sunday.