President Obama has forgotten a commitment to veto a new security law that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Human rights groups accused the president of abandoning his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military not be used in domestic policing.
The legislation has also been strongly criticized by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of “a war that appears to have no end”.
The law, contained in the defense authorization bill that funds the US military the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention without trial. The legislation’s supporters in Congress say it simply codifies an existing practice, such as the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay.
But the law’s critics describe it as a legislation that effectively extends the reach of detention without trial to include US citizens arrested in their own country.
“That’s scary stuff”, said Sam Dunham of Charlotte, a civil rights activist. “Yet few people in the main stream media are reporting about it”, he said.
“It’s something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration,” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. “It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent.”
“Detaining citizens without a court trial is not American” said Rand Paul and that if the law passes “the terrorists have won”.
“We’re talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantánamo Bay and held indefinitely. It puts every single citizen American at risk,” he said.
“Really, what security does this indefinite detention of Americans give us? The first and flawed premise, both here and in the badly named Patriot Act, is that our pre-9/11 police powers were insufficient to stop terrorism. This is simply not borne out by the facts.”
Under the legislation suspects can be held without trial “until the end of hostilities”. They will have the right to appear once a year before a committee that will decide if the detention will continue.
“It sounds totally unfair” said Tilly Houston, a hairdresser in Charlotte. “It means they can grab someone off the street and hold them without any evidence. Is that right? Where is our protection from that?”
Tilly may have a point.
I know the legislation has its fair share of supporters, but for me it doesn’t pass the smell test.
In fact it stinks like hell!
President Obama is expected to sign the legislation. If he does it will mean that the protections under the Bill of Rights may not apply to everyone. It marks a new dark chapter in the war on terror.