Military detainment powers dominate Congressional debate

The Senate has taken up the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, which will fund and dictate policy for the Defense Department for the fiscal year, and so far debate has been dominated by a provision that allows the military to indefinitely detain citizens suspected of terrorism in the U.S. and around the world without going through the U.S. justice system -- even on American soil.

The Senate has also approved an amendment providing for the inclusion of the National Guard as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This week's floor action thus far has overshadowed other parts of the bill expected to be debated, including the approval of funding for Joint Urgent Operational Needs and the acquisition of cyber defenses. The bill also calls for, and discussion is expected about, the development of capabilities that detect previously unknown cyber attacks.

The controversial detainee language in the Senate defense bill sparked tension on and beyond the Hill, with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in particular going head to head on the Senate floor Nov. 29.

Paul, along with Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who sponsored a failed amendment striking the bulk of the detainee language, argued that the provision dealing with the handling of suspected terrorists could be a threat to civil liberties. Udall stressed the opposition of high-profile figures like Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who have publicly expressed concern over the measure.

“Should we err today and remove some of the most important checks on state power in the name of fighting terrorism? Well, then the terrorists have won,” Paul said. “Detaining American citizens without a court trial is not American.”

But McCain and others who supported the measure, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), argued that the measure is vital to protecting U.S. security in wartime.

“An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat,” McCain said. “We need to take every step necessary to prevent that from happening, that’s for the safety and security of the men and women who are out there risking their lives ... in our armed services.”

Udall’s measure was defeated 37-61 on Nov. 29. The Senate will continue to debate the bill and is expected to vote on it soon.

The overall bill budgets for $663 billion in military spending for military personnel, weapons systems and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The House passed its own version of the defense authorization in May.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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Reader comments

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 Ft Sill, OK

First we find out US citizens can be targeted for assassination by a secret committee with no judicial the Congress wants to go one step further and incarcerate US citizens based on nothing (just like our dollar). If the sheep don't wake up soon, we will all be sheared.

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 Olde Sarge DC

Lindsey Graham needs to be sent back to South Carolina to earn a living and John McCain needs to retire to his Arizona ranch. We, as a nation, do not need to embarass ourselves again by the wholesale violation of individual and constitutional rights of Americans the way our government did during WWII. It is time to reign in the fascists! America, wake up before it is too late!

Wed, Nov 30, 2011

I am amazed to find that I actually agree with Rand Paul about something!

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 Milt Bell San Antonio, TX

Is this article referring to Senate Bill 1867? If so, it appears folks need to take a closer look at the Senate Bill. Section 1031 and 1032 of the bill is being cited on the ACLU and other web sites as requiring the "round-up" and indefinite detention of Americans. Following are extracts from Senate Bill 1867 (the Senate Bill is available online at, and other locations.) Section 1031 - (b) COVERED PERSONS.-A covered person under this section is any person as follows: (1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks. (2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces. Section 1032 (2) COVERED PERSONS.-The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined (a) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and (b) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners. Section 1032 further states: APPLICABILITY TO UNITED STATES CITIZENS AND LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS.— (1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS.—The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States. (2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS.—The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

Wed, Nov 30, 2011

Terrorist (American Terrorist-Treason?

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