Adding insult to injury, the United States Senate chose Bill of Rights Day to betray the United States Constitution and pass, 86-13, a bill under which "suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens, are not guaranteed a trial, and the language leaves open the possibility of indefinite detention," Voice of America reported Thursday evening. -- "Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation on Thursday that she said would seek to clarify that indefinite detention could not happen to Americans or anyone apprehended inside the United States," Reuters reported. -- Yet "Feinstein voted for the bill," the Los Angeles Times reported.. -- COMMENT: This bill violates the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment, which provides that "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence," and also the Fifth Amendment, which provides that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." -- In the words of the ACLU, "Imprisoning people indefinitely without charge or trial is illegal, un-American, and an impediment to achieving justice." ...
U.S. DEFENSE BILL PASSES IN SENATE
Voice of America
December 15, 2011
U.S. lawmakers have approved a $662 billion defense bill that contains a provision that President Barack Obama has opposed regarding the handling and detainment of terrorist suspects.
The Senate Thursday voted 86-13 in favor of the bill, which now will go to President Obama to be signed into law.
The House of Representatives passed the legislation a day earlier, after the White House dropped a veto threat. Lawmakers said they made revisions to the terrorist detainee provision in an effort to avoid the threatened veto.
The bill requires al-Qaida terrorists to be held in military detention if they are captured when plotting to attack the United States, unless they receive a presidential waiver. It was changed so that U.S. citizens are exempt from the law. However, under the new legislation, suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens, are not guaranteed a trial, and the language leaves open the possibility of indefinite detention.
The White House previously warned it would veto any bill that challenges or constrains the president's authority to collect intelligence, incapacitate terrorists, and protect the nation. The Obama administration argues that the military, law enforcement officials, and intelligence agents need flexibility to act on a case-by-case basis in dealing with terror suspects.
The legislation also would place a freeze on some aid to Pakistan until Islamabad gives assurances that it is helping to fight the spread of homemade bombs, known as improvised explosive devises, or IEDs. And the measure expands sanctions on Iran.
The bill also prohibits the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees to or within the United States, and prohibits the use of funds to house Guantanamo detainees in the U.S.
SENATE PASSES NEW RULES ON DETAINEES, SENDS TO OBAMA
By Susan Cornwell
December 15, 2011
WASHINGTON -- Congress on Thursday approved a defense bill requiring the military to handle suspected foreign militants allied with al Qaeda, sending it to President Barack Obama for his expected signature into law.
Final action came when the Senate approved the bill in an 86-13 vote, a day after Obama retreated from a veto threat on the legislation. The administration was unhappy with the intrusion into its authority over counterterrorism matters but relented when some of its flexibility was restored.
Other critics complained the measure allowed the indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects, including Americans.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation on Thursday that she said would seek to clarify that indefinite detention could not happen to Americans or anyone apprehended inside the United States.
"I strongly believe U.S. citizens apprehended in the U.S. should never be held in indefinite detention," Feinstein told the Senate just before the vote.
The House of Representatives agreed to the defense bill on Wednesday. The measure also imposes sanctions against Iran's central bank and pre-emptively freezes some aid to Pakistan.
The legislation was the latest battle in a long struggle between Obama, a Democrat, and some lawmakers over whether terror suspects should be prosecuted as "enemy combatants" before military commissions and held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or treated as criminal suspects in the U.S. court and prison system.
Republicans and some Democrats have urged that military custody and military courts should be used as a rule. The administration has sought to keep its flexibility in interrogating and detaining terrorism suspects, arguing that many had been successfully prosecuted in federal courts.
Senior members of Obama's national security team had expressed deep reservations about the section that broadens the armed forces' powers by requiring that foreigners allied with al Qaeda be held in military custody even if they are captured in the United States.
Senator John McCain, a Republican, said on Thursday that the Obama administration had "fought these provisions every step of the way," repeatedly trying to have them stripped out.
But the White House said the revisions of recent days gave it more discretion over implementation of the law.
Lawmakers gave the president authority to waive some provisions and took out a ban on using civilian courts to prosecute al Qaeda suspects.
The Obama administration also had misgivings about the bill's requirement for sanctions on foreign financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, the main conduit for Tehran's oil revenues.
But the White House never issued a veto threat on that part of the bill.
The measure also would place a pre-emptive freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan until Congress gets assurances from the U.S. secretary of defense that Islamabad is helping fight the spread of homemade bombs in the region.
The defense legislation authorizes U.S. defense programs from war fighting to weapons building.
It authorizes $662 billion for defense in fiscal 2012, including the Pentagon's base budget and the war in Afghanistan, although appropriators must still approve the numbers before money is spent.
(Reporting By Susan Cornwell; Editing by Sandra Maler)
CONGRESS APPROVES $662-BILLION DEFENSE SPENDING BILL
By Kathleen Hennessey
** The measure clears the Senate despite misgivings about provisions requiring military detention of some terrorism suspects and new sanctions on Iran. **
Los Angeles Times
December 15, 2011
WASHINGTON -- Ending a weeks-long tangle with the White House, Congress approved a sweeping defense bill Thursday that includes controversial provisions on handling detainees accused of terrorism and tough new sanctions on Iran.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 passed the Senate on a 86-13 vote, a solid show of support that belied the considerable opposition and debate behind it.
Several Democrats said they voted for the bill -- which sets Pentagon policy, authorizes $662 billion in spending and gives service members a pay raise -- despite their concerns about the detainee provisions. President Obama initially said he would veto the legislation, but he withdrew the threat after the White House said it was satisfied with revisions made in negotiations this week between the House and Senate.
The final compromise mandates that terrorism suspects thought to have ties to Al Qaeda and planning attacks against the United States be taken into military custody, even those captured in the U.S. In response to some complaints, though, the bill carves out an exemption for U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
The bill also allows the military to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects accused of having ties to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or forces engaged in hostilities against the U.S. That provision specifies that such power cannot be applied to U.S. citizens captured in the U.S.
Supporters of the detainee provisions said they were necessary to improve rapid intelligence gathering and interrogation in the moments after a suspect is captured, which might be hindered if the suspect were held by civilian authorities.
"No member of Al Qaeda, no terrorist, should ever hear the words, 'You have the right to remain silent,''' said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
Civil liberties groups and some Democrats raised concerns that the provisions could be used to trample on citizens' right to due process in U.S. courts.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she wondered why some of the changes were necessary, given the successful detention of terrorism suspects in U.S. prisons and trial in court.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," said Feinstein, who introduced separate legislation aimed at affirming citizens' due process rights. Feinstein voted for the bill, as did Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
The legislation also extends for another year a ban on transferring prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and on the use of Pentagon money to build facilities in the U.S. to house such prisoners.
The U.S. continues to hold about 2,500 people suspected of being Al Qaeda, Taliban or associated force fighters in detention centers around the world, according to an update Obama provided in a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday. Guantanamo Bay is holding 170 detainees, the president said.
The legislation also faced resistance from the administration over the Iran sanctions, politically popular efforts that sailed through the Senate. The new provisions, introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), will penalize financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank, particularly for the purchase of oil and oil products.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said the sanctions could alienate allies and ultimately undermine U.S. efforts to build international pressure on Iran. South Korea and Japan, big consumers of Iranian oil, already have begun seeking waivers to any U.S. sanctions.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the administration was still studying the legislation.
--Paul Richter in the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.