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.

On the Agenda: Week of May 14–18, 2012

On the Agenda: Week of May 14–18, 2012

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:39pm

This week the House will debate the NDAA for fiscal year 2013. We'll be monitoring the debate and pulling for an amendment that fixes the terrible detention provisions in last year's bill.

On the Agenda: Week of April 30 – May 5, 2012

On the Agenda: Week of April 30 – May 5, 2012

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:00pm

Congress is out this week, but May will be a busy month with cybersecurity in the Senate, the 2013 NDAA and the arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

On the Agenda: Week of April 23 – 27, 2012

On the Agenda: Week of April 23 – 27, 2012

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:04pm

This week, Wednesday is a big day for immigrants' rights advocates: The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Arizona v. United States, the Justice Department's challenge to S.B. 1070, Arizona's racial profiling law. The ACLU will be participating…

First-Ever Hearing on NDAA Indefinite Military Detention

First-Ever Hearing on NDAA Indefinite Military Detention

By Sam Milgrom, Washington Legislative Office at 5:04pm

Though this hearing was a good first step in fixing the mess made by the NDAA, it's clear neither side of the debate plans to give an inch.

Will Congress Finally Start to Clean Up the Mess It Made With the NDAA?

Will Congress Finally Start to Clean Up the Mess It Made With the NDAA?

By Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:16pm

Tell Congress that Americans reject indefinite military detention without charge or trial, and we expect Congress to fix the mess it's made.

President Obama: Veto Indefinite Detention

President Obama: Veto Indefinite Detention

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:03pm

As I write this, the Defense Authorization bill is on its way to President Obama's desk. The bill contains dangerous, sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provisions.

Leading members of Congress have already indicated that they believe that…

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…

Hey Chairman Levin, the Michigan House Says You Should Fix the NDAA

Hey Chairman Levin, the Michigan House Says You Should Fix the NDAA

By Merissa Kovach, Field Organizer, ACLU of Michigan at 4:22pm

As Michigan continues to navigate the ugly partisan shenanigans surrounding the so-called “right to work” legislation currently being jammed through the legislature, at least one beacon of light deserves recognition.

Last week,…

And Now Rhode Island

And Now Rhode Island

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 2:29pm

Rhode Island’s state legislature adjourned on Tuesday – or, according to their floor calendars, sometime after 2 am on Wednesday morning. (Ouch!) As in most state legislatures, the last day of session saw a flurry of activity,…

Hey Congress!  Listen to Hawaii.

Hey Congress! Listen to Hawaii.

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 3:33pm

Hawaii recently joined the list of cities, counties, and states across the country expressing opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)’s indefinite and mandatory military detention provisions and calling on Congress to repeal…

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