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.

"Guantánamo North" – NDAA Indefinite Detention Coming Soon to a Town Near You?

"Guantánamo North" – NDAA Indefinite Detention Coming Soon to a Town Near You?

By Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:00am

Top senators thought you wouldn't notice. Behind closed doors, they wrote up new indefinite detention and Guantánamo provisions in the annual defense policy bill, and then waited 11 days to quietly file the bill.

But we now have the bill,…

VICTORY! Military Ban on Consensual Intimacy Ends

VICTORY! Military Ban on Consensual Intimacy Ends

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:33am

In the late hours on Thursday evening, the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 84-15, passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sending the measure to President Obama for his signature.  Included within the sprawling annual defense authorization…

The Good, Bad, and Ugly for Religious Liberty and LGBT Rights in Defense Bill

The Good, Bad, and Ugly for Religious Liberty and LGBT Rights in Defense Bill

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Dena Sher, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:15pm

A sure sign of early summer in Washington, besides the sticky, humid air, is the House and Senate Armed Services Committees kicking off the annual process to pass the defense authorization bill – known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).…

Don't Be Fooled by New NDAA Detention Amendment

Don't Be Fooled by New NDAA Detention Amendment

By Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:14pm

The Senate is once again debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is within a day or two of voting yet again on the issue of indefinite detention without charge or trial in the United States itself.

Last year, Congress…

The Sweeping License to Discriminate Hidden in the NDAA

The Sweeping License to Discriminate Hidden in the NDAA

By Dena Sher, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:58pm

With Congress having recently approved this year’s NDAA, we think it is important to draw attention to a provision (Section 533(a)(1)), which, though hidden away, is unprecedented, sweeping, and could invite dangerous claims of a right to discriminate against not just lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, but also women, religious minorities, and in the provision of health care.

NDAA: Fight to End Indefinite Detention Goes to Senate

NDAA: Fight to End Indefinite Detention Goes to Senate

By Zak Newman, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:13pm

It was a scrappy week in Washington last week, as members of the House of Representatives took up votes on key military programs. Like last year, Guantánamo and the targeted killing program featured prominently.

Though the National Defense…

Counting the Days at Guantánamo

Counting the Days at Guantánamo

By Zak Newman, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:15am

The U.S. government took its first prisoners to Guantánamo Bay 12 years ago today.

In the 4,380 days since, we have seen indefinite detention without formal charge or trial, the use of torture and other abusive treatment, and unlawful and…

Tweet to Restore Fairness to Servicewomen

Tweet to Restore Fairness to Servicewomen

By Alicia Gay, ACLU at 3:12pm

We are defending a Constitution that doesn’t apply to us.

Those are the words that a young servicewoman, Jessica Kenyon, shared with us last year.  Jessica joined the U.S. Army in 2005, and while she was stationed in Korea she…

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