Blog of Rights

Reid Detains Defense Bill over Problematic Detention Language

By Sam Milgrom, Washington Legislative Office at 2:57pm

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made it clear that significant changes to the detention provisions in the Defense Authorization bill are in order. In a letter to Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), Reid told the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to fix the detention provisions in "S.1253" – the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA), a must-pass piece of legislation. Reid's letter states that he does not intend to bring the bill to the Senate floor until sections 1031, 1032, and 1033 are changed.

How bad must the detention provisions be that the Senate Majority Leader required them to be changed before he would allow the bill to move? Well, for starters, section 1031 goes beyond permissible detention under the laws of war, and is inconsistent with the rule of law and positions that the Obama administration has taken.

Earlier this week, we released a memo that explains the problems with Section 1031's proposed detention language. Among the most troubling issues, Section 1031

  • Would subject United States citizens and other persons present in the United States to Indefinite detention without charge or trial.
  • Could cause naturalized United States citizens and immigrants to be sent to a foreign country, even in the absence of any wrongdoing.
  • Does not require even an allegation that a detained person caused harm or threat of harm to the United States or U.S. citizens.
  • Curtails protections provided by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 against using the military for domestic law enforcement.
  • Provides no guidance for the Defense Department on how to pay for new prison facilities and the increase in uniformed personnel that would be required for it to carry out the vast new detention, arrest, and investigatory powers Section 1031 authorizes.
  • Grants permanent, worldwide authority for the United States military to imprison indefinitely persons seized in any country in the world, which would cause significant harm to U.S. foreign policy and to the willingness of other countries to adhere to law-of-war detention norms.

Thanks to all who have taken action and have contacted their senators, urging them to ensure the problematic detention provisions are stripped from the NDAA before it gets to the senate floor. If you have not joined in this effort please click the link, take action, and let your voice be heard.

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