With little public warning Democrat leaders in the Senate are attempting to rush through a National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1867) which includes controversial provisions which could open the door to authorizing the military to detain United States Citizens within the US and hold them indefinitely without charge or trial. They could even potentially face military justice instead of trial in a civilian court, with no regard for their Constitutionally protected rights.
Earlier this month Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) attempted to negotiate a compromise with Senate leaders which would have changed sections 1031 and 1032 of the bill to protect the rights of citizens, but their suggestions were rejected in committee and they and other civil libertarians in both parties are now supporting Senator Paul’s amendment to strike those sections entirely from the bill.
The ostensible goal of these provisions of the bill is to make it easier to prosecute terrorists and their allies, but ambiguities in the wording and a section which allows the President to override some of the restrictions in the bill open the door to an unprecedented use of the military to detain and even try US civilians.
The Republican Liberty Caucus has launched a write-in campaign to support the Paul amendment and wrote of the bill:
“You may think that this sort of insane legislation which totally undermines our Constitutionally protected rights can’t be real. You may find it hard to believe that most Republicans are supporting it. You may not think this could happen in your America. Yet this outrage is entirely real.”
Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) has been an outspoken critic of the bill and was one of only five Repubiicans to vote against it when it passed the House in May. Amash points out that “the President should not have the authority to determine whether the Constitution applies to you, no matter what the allegations.”
Amash explains that the language of the bill is “carefully crafted to mislead the public.” He also addresses the claims of supporters of the bill that the problem sections has been fixed, explaining that “it does not preclude U.S. citizens from being detained indefinitely, without charge or trial, it simply makes such detention discretionary.”
We have already given up too much of our liberty and given far too much power to the government under the threat of terrorism and for the illusion of security. It’s time to take responsibility for our own safety and demand that lawmakers stand up for our rights.
Although the vote on this bill was originally planned for Monday it now seems likely that it will take place on Tuesday instead. The bill itself is likely to pass with strong bipartisan support, but grassroots efforts might be able to at least pass the Paul Amendment and remove these troubling anti-liberty sections from the bill.
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