NDAA

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a federal law specifying the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense (DOD). Each year's act also includes other provisions, some related to civil liberties.

Everyone should understand what's in the NDAA before the full Senate makes a big mistake and paves the way for Guantánamo-style indefinite detention being brought to the United States itself.

The new Senate NDAA:

Brings Indefinite Detention to the U.S. Itself: The bill now says that detainees may be brought to the United States for "detention pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force" (AUMF). In plain English, that means the policy of indefinite detention by the military, without charge or trial, could be carried out here at home. Right now, the number of people in the U.S. in military indefinite detention is zero. If the bill is enacted, that number could immediately jump to 100 or more.

Bolsters Claims of NDAA and AUMF Indefinite Detention Authority: The AUMF is the basis for the indefinite detention authority included in the NDAA that Congress passed nearly three years ago. Indefinite detention is wrong today and certainly cannot be sustained past the end of U.S. combat in the Afghan war. But passing a new Senate NDAA that relies on detention authority based on the AUMF, just as the U.S. combat role in the war is winding down, could be used by the government to bolster its claim that indefinite detention can just keep on going. Even when any actual U.S. combat is over.

Requires Report on Even More NDAA and AUMF Indefinite Detention Authority: As if the government didn't already have enough claims of indefinite detention authority, the Senate NDAA asks the administration to let Congress know what more indefinite detention authority it wants.

Tries to Strip Federal Courts of Ability to Decide Challenges to Harmful Conditions: In a stunning provision, the Senate NDAA tries to strip federal courts of their ability to "hear or consider" any challenge related to harmful treatment or conditions by detainees brought to the United States. This provision tries to gut our system of checks and balances by cutting out the courts.

Violates Supreme Court Decision by Stripping Habeas Rights from Detainees Left at Guantánamo: In a classic example of why it is never a good idea for a committee to legislate behind closed doors, the Senate NDAA includes language inadvertently stripping habeas rights from any Guantánamo detainee who is not moved to the United States. Habeas is the very fundamental protection of being able to have a judge decide whether it is legal or illegal to hold someone in prison. While this is almost certainly the product of sloppy drafting, the result squarely contradicts the Supreme Court's decision in Boumediene v. Bush, in which the Court said Guantanamo detainees have a constitutional right to habeas.

Blocks Most Cleared Detainees from Going Home: The Senate NDAA would block the transfer home of the vast majority of cleared detainees by imposing a blanket ban on transfers to Yemen, instead of continuing to allow the secretary of defense to make decisions on an individual basis. That would mean dozens of detainees cleared for transfer would remain trapped in limbo.

There is a right way and a wrong way to close Guantánamo. Charging and trying in court anyone who committed a crime – and sending anyone who isn't charged with a crime back home or to another country – is the right way to close Guantánamo. Simply moving all of the bad Guantánamo policies to the U.S. itself is the wrong way.

Behind Closed Doors: Congress Trying to Force Indefinite Detention Bill on Americans

Behind Closed Doors: Congress Trying to Force Indefinite Detention Bill on Americans

By Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:45pm

For most of America, the end of the year is a busy time. In Congress, this is a season usually spent trying to jam through bad bills while they hope no one is looking.

Senate Rejects Amendment Banning Indefinite Detention

Senate Rejects Amendment Banning Indefinite Detention

By Ateqah Khaki at 7:27pm

Today, the Senate voted 38-60 to reject an important amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have removed harmful provisions authorizing the U.S. military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including…

Don't Open the Door to Torture

Don't Open the Door to Torture

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:03pm

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is pursuing a deeply misguided effort that threatens to reopen the door to torture.

ACLU Lens: Senate Takes Up New Detention Authorities Again Tonight – We Need Your Help!

By Amanda Simon at 11:21am

The Senate’s back in session today, ready to begin once again on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Perfectly timed for the Senate’s return, the San Jose Mercury News ran an incredibly compelling op-ed today by Floyd Mori,…

Seriously? Senate Considering Repeal of Anti-Torture Measures

By Ateqah Khaki at 11:16am

Yesterday, the ACLU and over 30 other organizations sent a letter to the Senate asking them to oppose an effort in Congress that threatens to revive the use of torture and other inhumane interrogation techniques. If passed, an amendment introduced…

Thank You Sen. Baucus for Opposing Indefinite Detention

By Amy Cannata, ACLU of Montana at 3:24pm

We are heartened that Montana Sen. Max Baucus is opposing two provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which strike at the heart of our constitutional protections for a fair justice system.

Those two provisions would authorize…

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…

Will the Senate Forget the Lessons from Japanese-American Internment?

By Amanda Simon at 1:02pm

The U.S. Senate is considering the unthinkable, changing detention laws to imprison people – including Americans – indefinitely and without charge. Before they proceed, they should review our own history by listening to the voices of…

Senate Armed Services Committee Says "No" to Worldwide War; Overreaches on Indefinite Detention

By Sam Milgrom, Washington Legislative Office at 5:12pm

Hooray! With your help, we prevented the Senate from authorizing the president to engage in worldwide war.

For months, we have been pushing to prevent Congress from passing legislation that would give this president (and any of his successors)…

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