Senate's Disastrous New Detention Bill

Update 12/2/11: The Senate passed NDAA.  President Obama must veto this disastrous bill.

The new National Defense Authorization Bill (S1867) presented to the Senate by the Armed Services Committee is such a disaster for civil liberties and human rights it is difficult to know where to begin.

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.


Freed GTMO Detainee Becomes Al Qaeda Chief? Blame Bush (and Clinton).

In a case of interesting timing, today’s New York Times reports in “Freed by U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief”  that a former Guantanamo detainee is now a deputy leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen and opines that this has “underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.” A related Times online forum debates “The Risks of Releasing Detainees.” 

To me, however, this case–and the Pentagon’s reports of recidivism–underscores the failure of the Bush administration’s attempt to identify and prosecute those responsible for 9/11.

By resorting to illegal and untested practices and policies, the Bush administration turned its back on the best tools we have for identifying and prosecuting people responsible for grave acts of violence against civilians–including standard law-enforcement practices and a tried and true federal court system.

As a result, some of the wrong people may have been released and some of the wrong people have been (and continue to be) detained–while those ultimately responsible for 9/11 remain either at large or unprosecuted.

This is criminal. In addition to accountability for torture and other abuses against detainees, there should be accountability for the failure to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who have attacked the United States, whether under G.W. Bush’s administration–or Clinton’s.

If anything, accounts of the radicalization of former detainees underscore the need for a full, independent, investigation into the U.S. government’s detention and interrogation program to find out where things went wrong, make sure the same mistakes aren’t repeated and hold those responsible accountable.  

President Obama has the power to make it all happen. Let him know you want him to.