There has been a great deal of confusion over whether the indefinite detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) apply to US citizens or not – the simple answer is that it is too early to tell.
The NDAA provisions greatly strengthen a framework for detaining suspected members of Al Qaeda or its affiliates that is derived from the law of armed conflict. Under the law of armed conflict belligerents can be detained until the conflict ends or until they no longer pose a threat.
The NDAA drafters draw a clear distinction between US citizens and non-US citizens which is itself problematic since equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles of justice and a core human right.
The NDAA “requires” that non-US citizens be treated as enemy combatants rather than as criminal suspects unless the President issues a waiver in the interests of national security.
Section 1031 of the Bill extends the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after the September 11th attacks to encompass any individual who has “substantially supported” Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces”.
This is extraordinarily vague. The phrase ‘associated forces’ is so flexible that it can be used to encompass almost any militant Islamic group in existence from Indonesia to Nigeria. It might include political parties who share some of the militants’ aims but not their methods – like the Hizb ut Tahrir movement active in Western Europe and Australia.
A few weeks ago the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was condemned by Senator Reid as so draconian that he could not bring it to the floor. Now it’s back and with an authoritarian vengeance.
The bill has the necessary but perpetually complex objective of outlining the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense.
This time around, a dubious, ill-informed, and unwise “agreement” has been reached between Senators Levin and McCain to include detention provisions that threaten to bring back internment for the first time since the McCarthy era at the height of the red scare.
Years ago, Tom Lehrer sang “when correctly viewed, everything is lewd.” In today’s Turkey, one might well sing “when correctly viewed, everyone’s a terrorist.” How else do you explain the recent incarceration of Ragip Zarakolu, currently being held in a prison designed for hardened and dangerous criminals?
Zarakolu, 65-year-old and in ill health, is a book publisher and human rights activist who has been accused of terrorism– apparently because he gave a talk at a legal Kurdish political party’s Politics Academy. Professor Büşra Ersanlı was also detained and records of their interrogation by prosecutors show that both Zarakolu and Ersanlı were asked about their participation with the Politics Academy.
Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007. (Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
Shaker Aamer, a former UK resident of Saudi descent, has been held without charge at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 10 years. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 but is still inexplicably incarcerated more than four years later.
Shaker was detained by irregular Afghan forces in Jalalabad in December 2001, shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. By his own account he had been in Afghanistan working for a Saudi charity and no compelling evidence refuting this contention has been presented.
Setting aside the fact that the Bush administration had much the same effect on America’s economy that the iceberg had on the Titanic, there is another good reason why President Bush was a very poor choice of speaker.
As President of the United States, George Bush ordered the torture of detainees in US custody.
Update: We did it — thanks to your calls, the Senate successfully defeated Senator Ayotte’s amendment to ban fair trials for terror suspects! But the fight isn’t over. Please continue to help fight against other legislation that would keep Guantanamo open.
A new and dangerous amendment has been put on the appropriations omnibus bill on the Senate floor today — and now’s the time to pick up the phone and urge your Senators to vote no. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has introduced an amendment to H.R. 2112 that would bar all federal trials for foreign terrorist suspects and goes further than any previous attempt to undermine the fight against terrorism.
Yesterday, we got some good news on human rights from Capitol Hill: Senate Majority leader Harry Reid threw down the gauntlet against indefinite detention provisions in this year’s National Defense Authorizations Act (NDAA). Reid declared he would not bring the new defense appropriations act to the floor unless provisions related to holding suspected terrorist detainees indefinitely were struck from the bill.