Is the US Getting Domestic Indefinite Military Detention for Thanksgiving?

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4157866035/sizes/z/in/photostream/">Truthout</a>/Flickr


A bipartisan group of senators is poised to force through dramatic changes to how the US government handles suspected terrorists—over the objections of the White House and Senate Democratic leadership. 

Legislative language that emerged from the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday afternoon would mandate the automatic, indefinite military detention of noncitizens apprehended in the United States who are suspected members of Al Qaeda or associated groups. The wording, which is part of a must-pass bill to fund the military, also appears to allow the indefinite military detention of citizens and legal permanent residents. The bill would also extend restrictions on transfers of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, though only for one year.

Obama administration officials fear that the mandatory detention provisions could force the FBI to interrupt ongoing investigations in order to hand suspected terrorists over to the military. They also worry that the new rules could interfere with the prosecution of suspected terrorists in federal courts. At a homeland security and counterterrorism conference in September, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan warned that “this approach would impose unprecedented restrictions on the ability of experienced professionals to combat terrorism.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held up the defense funding bill in mid-October on the basis of the those objections. The latest changes to the bill appear to address some of the administration’s concerns by claiming that designating an individual a terrorist “does not require the interruption of ongoing surveillance or intelligence gathering activities.” But civil liberties advocates are disappointed.  

“The problems with these provisions have not been fixed—they’ve been made worse,” says Chris Anders, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “There is absolutely no reason for Congress to now pass legislation that would put in indefinite military detention American citizens and other suspects apprehended far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself. “

Anders also points out that it’s entirely possible that the detention provisions could become more restrictive once other Senate Republicans start demanding changes to them. Reid, however, doesn’t sound like he’s willing to hold the bill up any further. “It hasn’t been worked out to the satisfaction of everyone,” Reid said of the defense bill, “but there comes a time when we have to stop negotiating and move to the legislation.”

A Senate Democratic aide said that Reid was hoping to move the bill to the floor as early as next week.

“He’s made no commitments on final passage until we see what comes out of the Senate, and then what comes out of the conference,” the aide said. “He just wants to move the bill to the floor before Thanksgiving.”

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.