Senate Attacks Due Process Rights With National Defense Act

In a move that would have the Founding Fathers rolling over in their graves, the Senate voted to strike down an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have stripped the bill of a controversial provision that would allow the military to detain U.S. citizens on American soil and hold them indefinitely without trial if they are suspected terrorists. This outrageous provision, passed with bipartisan support, is borderline treason as it contradicts every American’s Sixth Amendment rights and is, therefore, in direct violation of the oath every member of Congress swore upon taking office. If the bill is passed in its current form it faces a presidential veto, however, regardless of the final outcome of the bill, the fact that the amendment to strip the bill of the controversial detainment provision was struck down is a shocking display of how detached the Senate has become from its duty to the American people.

The National Defense Authorization Act, also known as H.R. 1540, is a bill passed annually by Congress, which provides funding for many parts of the nation’s defense apparatus. It is routinely passed without delay so as to ensure the military does not lack necessary funding. However, this year a controversial provision, crafted by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) outlined in Section 1031 of the bill, has caused outrage in some Senators. In addition to essentially negating the Sixth Amendment, the provision also attempts to circumvent the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the deployment of military personnel on U.S. soil for law enforcement purposes.

The provision sparked heated debate on the floor on Tuesday, with prominent security hawks coming to its defense. Of note was Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who said, "The enemy is all over the world…And when people take up arms against the United States and [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person..?" Senator Graham said, "They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer….”

Apparently, Graham has forgotten his responsibility to the American people. He seems to have forgotten the rights reserved for those people by the Sixth Amendment of their Constitution-a Constitution he swore to uphold when he took office. Perhaps by some twisted logic, Graham believes that this provision will protect the Constitution from its enemies.  It is only a form of severely twisted logic that could convince a Senator that by destroying an amendment to the Constitution he is protecting it.

Graham who is a member of the Armed Services committee-a committee tasked with understanding and combating terrorism-seems not to realize the ambiguity of the term terrorism. The phrase “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” is not entirely helpful when discussing terrorism, but it does simply outline the point that there are substantial difficulties when classifying terrorism. With that in mind, who will decide what is and what is not a terrorist act under the new bill? How long until “terrorists” are more broadly classified as just, “Enemies of the state?”

The right to a fair and free trial is engrained in every American’s political psyche, and H.R. 1540 will leave many scratching their heads. On the other side, fear tactics have caused many Americans to accept outrageous, right-annulling provisions such as those found in H.R. 1540 and in the Patriot Act. It is time that fear was left behind, and it is time that these issues are debated under the framework of a citizen’s Constitutional rights instead of the fear-mongering framework of national security.

Regardless of the outcome of H.R. 1540 it is shockingly evident that the Congress believes it already has the rights outlined in Section 1031. Just look at the case of Wikileaks informer, Bradley Manning, who has been in detention since May 26, 2010.  Manning is a U.S. citizen, yet, he has not faced a trial of any sort, and the American public does not seem the least bit concerned about his situation. Now the Senate wants to make his indefinite detention, and yours, legal.

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