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News Link • Police State

Indefinite Detention and the Free Society... They don't go together.

Permit me to state the obvious: The government shouldn’t be allowed to imprison people indefinitely without charge or trial. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this nearly 800 years after Magna Carta was signed and over 200 years after the Fifth Amendment was ratified.

Yet this uncomplicated principle, which is within the understanding of a child, is apparently lost on a majority in the U.S. Senate. Earlier this week the Senate voted 61-37 in effect to authorize the executive branch to use the military to capture and hold American citizens indefinitely without trial – perhaps at Guantanamo — if they are merely suspected of involvement with a terrorist or related organization — and even if their suspected activity took place on U.S. soil.

The provision, which is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, was drafted without a public hearing by Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain. Sen. Mark Udall sponsored an amendment to remove the power, but the amendment was defeated. A related provision requires that terrorism suspects who are not citizens be held by the military rather than being tried in a civilian criminal court. (The executive branch can waive this requirement after certifying to Congress that the waiver is a matter of national security.)

The right of habeas corpus is preserved for citizens, but this is the barest minimal protection of a suspect’s rights.

The act passed today (Friday, December 2) and has to be reconciled with the House version.


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