On Tuesday the US Senate voted to keep a controversial provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows the US military to detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial. The measure was opposed by civil libertarians on the left and right. The senate is looking to wrap up the bill by week’s end.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke out against the measure on the senate floor this week. According to Paul, having more than 7 Days of food makes you a suspected terrorist.
Paul’s top complaint is that an American could get just one hearing where the military could assert that the person is a suspected terrorist — and then they could be locked up for life.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) discussed this provision this week on the senate floor:
James Madison, father of the Constitution, warned, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.”
Abraham Lincoln had similar thoughts, saying “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
During war there has always been a struggle to preserve Constitutional liberties. During the Civil War the right of habeas corpus was suspended. Newspapers were closed down. Fortunately, these rights were restored after the war.
The discussion now to suspend certain rights to due process is especially worrisome given that we are engaged in a war that appears to have no end. Rights given up now cannot be expected to be returned. So, we do well to contemplate the diminishment of due process, knowing that the rights we lose now may never be restored.
My well-intentioned colleagues ignore these admonitions in defending provisions of the Defense bill pertaining to detaining suspected terrorists.
Their legislation would arm the military with the authority to detain indefinitely – without due process or trial – SUSPECTED al-Qaida sympathizers, including American citizens apprehended on American soil.
I want to repeat that. We are talking about people who are merely SUSPECTED of a crime. And we are talking about American citizens.
If these provisions pass, we could see American citizens being sent to Guantanamo Bay.
This should be alarming to everyone watching this proceeding today. Because it puts every single American citizen at risk.
There is one thing and one thing only protecting innocent Americans from being detained at will at the hands of a too-powerful state – our constitution, and the checks we put on government power. Should we err today and remove some of the most important checks on state power in the name of fighting terrorism, well, then the terrorists have won.
Detaining citizens without a court trial is not American. In fact, this alarming arbitrary power is reminiscent of Egypt’s “permanent” Emergency Law authorizing preventive indefinite detention, a law that provoked ordinary Egyptians to tear their country apart last spring and risk their lives to fight.
It’s weird that this power grab is not getting more play in the media, huh?