The House has passed H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. It now goes to Obama for his signature and he has dropped his veto threat. It passed 283-136 with 15 non-votes. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul did not vote.
The controversial detainee provisions section 1031 has been moved to section 1021. Read the entire bill text here. Here is the final language from section 1021.
SEC. 1021. Affirmation of authority of the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(a) In general.—Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.
(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.
(c) Disposition under law of war.—The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111–84)).
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.
(d) Construction.—Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(e) Authorities.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.
(f) Requirement for briefings of Congress.—The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be “covered persons” for purposes of subsection (b)(2).
The problem is in the interpretation. Supporters claim that the language doesn’t target American citizens. Correct. However, it doesn’t limit the President’s authority under existing law and there-in lies the quandary. You merely need to be suspected of terrorist activities as identified by the President by decree and you fall under the provisions of the law which includes possible detention without charge or trial until the end of hostilities. Got that? The end of hostilities. Guess what? The war on terror has no end.
Now, if you feel secure in the knowledge that government never misuses its authority, then you can sleep soundly tonight. However, if you live in the real world and realize that this bill contains provisions ripe for possible abuse, then you should be very concerned. In other words should you happen to tick off the wrong people for whatever reason, they can tack a potential terrorist activity label on you without any repercussions whatsoever and lock you up and throw away the key. Think it can’t happen here in America? You haven’t been paying attention.
This is the problem with bills such as this and the PATRIOT ACT. When you surrender liberty, they don’t take it in obvious chunks, rather you willingly surrender it in bits and pieces all in the name of your protection. You never get it back when you give it up. Will there come a day when it will come back and haunt us? I wouldn’t ever want to risk my liberty to find out.