national defense authorization act
Around this time last year, Congress passed and the White House signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This ordinarily routine house-keeping legislation was controversial for a few different reasons, but shady language dealing with indefinite detention of anyone merely suspected of terrorist activity — including American citizens.
Last month, the United States Senate adopted an amendment to the NDAA offered by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) that would have limited the federal government’s ability to detain American citizens.
Unfortunately, the New York Times reported last night that the Feinstein-Lee Amendment, which easily cleared the Senate, will be dropped in the conference committee version of the NDAA:
Lawmakers charged with merging the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act decided on Tuesday to drop a provision that would have explicitly barred the military from holding American citizens and permanent residents in indefinite detention without trial as terrorism suspects, according to Congressional staff members familiar with the negotiations.
Last year, the blogosphere lit up over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contained a provision that could be interpreted by courts to allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens. We covered this White House-backed provision extensively at the end of last year.
Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Adam Smith (D-WA) tried to push through an amendment earlier this year to fix the muddied language, but it was rejected.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the 2013 version of NDAA. This year’s version of the bill included an amendment, a bipartisan effort from Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Mike Lee (R-UT), to clear up the language indefinition detention provision.
Unfortunately, there does seem to be some confusion about the the bill that ultimately passed. In a post today at his Facebook page, Sen. Paul, who voted for this year’s version of NDAA, sets the record straight:
I have noticed that many are confused by my vote for NDAA. Please allow me to explain.
First, we should be clear about what the bill is. NDAA is the yearly defense authorization bill. It’s primary function is to specify which programs can and can’t be funded within the Pentagon and throughout the military. It is not the bill that spends the money—that comes later in an appropriations bill.
Because I think we should spend less, I will offer amendments to cut spending. I will likely vote against the final spending bill. This wasn’t it.
Last year, the Congress created quite a firestorm with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contained a provision that would allow for the indefinite detention of anyone merely suspected of terrorist activities, including American citizens. President Barack Obama issued a veto threat, which was strange given that the White House asked for the provision, but eventually backed off.
In May, a federal judge shot down the the NDAA because of the impact it could have on the First Amendment — you know, that fundamental civil liberty for which President Obama seems to have little regard. The Obama Administration is, of course, fighting the ruling in court because, as Lucy Steigerwald explains, not having the ability to detain people without formal charges for the entirety of an open-ended “war on terror” would hurt the United States.
Ben Swann, a Cincinnati-based news anchor, recently asked President Obama about his support of the indefinite detention provision. President Obama does explain that in signing statement he promised not to use the power to detain United States citizens. Of course, that doesn’t stop a later administration from using the provision how they see fit.
The Washington Times had an interesting article yesterday, about how Congress did very little work last year. It’s a hoot to read:
It’s official: Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills — fewer than during any other session since year-end records began being kept in 1947.
Furthermore, an analysis by The Washington Times of the scope of such activities as time spent in debate, number of conference reports produced and votes taken on the House andSenate floors found that Congress set a record for legislative futility by accomplishing less in 2011 than any other year in history.
The Senate’s record was weakest by a huge margin, according to the futility index, and the House had its 10th-worst session on record.
Futility index? Have they copyrighted that? (I hope not, with SOPA coming down the pipeline…)
Of the bills the 112th Congress did pass, the majority were housekeeping measures, such as naming post office buildings or extending existing laws. Sometimes, it was too difficult for the two chambers to hammer out agreements. More often, the Senate failed to reach agreement within the chamber.
That left much of the machinery of the federal government on autopilot, with the exception of spending, where monumental clashes dominated the legislative session.
Journalists are terrorists.
That line of thought was brought up in my college class on international reporting back in 2009, when we were discussing the Swine Flu and SARS and how the media was covering those things. One student asked that, if journalists were hyping these stories, getting people alarmed over things that probably not going to harm them, and especially if said journalists were not doing proper fact-checking and were spreading around myths, then aren’t journalists terrorists?
That was in my mind as I read about the National Defense Authorization Act and its idiotic langauge that would require the US military to lock up anyone who is merely “suspected” of being a terrorist without any trial or due process. The same line of thought, apparently, hit Jason Kuznicki:
If I were president, I would start with a round of mass imprisonments.
As Machiavelli advises, I’d do it quickly, perhaps all in one night. A few tens of thousands should be enough.
No, no, you’ve got me all wrong — these aren’t political prisoners. Yes, they just happen to include the members of the Democratic and Republican National Committees. There are a lot of big-time political donors. (Which ones? Don’t ask!) Industrialists, financiers, labor leaders, community organizers. Academics. Journalists. Judges. A few members of Congress. (I wouldn’t need too many of those. It only needs a few pour encourager les autres.)