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Levin and Stabenow vote again in favor of the US military detaining US citizens

December 2, 2012

On Thursday, Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin both voted for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.levinhighres

This recent voted was an just an amended version of the original legislation that was proposed by Senator Levin last year, which was widely condemned by human rights and civil liberties groups, such as the ACLU, since it allows for the detention of US civilians by the US military.

In a statement released on Friday, Senator Levin said:

“Now again, Senator Feinstein’s amendment does not prohibit the military detention of U.S. citizens who are captured or apprehended inside the United States, if it is expressly authorized by law – which I read the statute authorizing the use of military force itself, or some other Act of Congress.  Now, this is a major difference from the amendment that Senator Feinstein offered last year, which included no exception for congressional authorization.”

In response to the Feinstein Amendment to the NDAA, the ALCU has this to say:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced an amendment that superficially looks like it could help, but in fact, would cause harm. Feinstein was a forceful leader last year against the NDAA detention provisions and believes that she is doing the right thing this year. But the problem is that the actual text of her amendment is bad.

It might look like a fix, but it breaks things further. Feinstein’s amendment says that American citizens and green-card holders in the United States cannot be put into indefinite detention in a military prison, but carves out everyone else in the United States.

There are three problems with her amendment:Picture 1

  • It would NOT make America off-limits to the military being used to imprison civilians without charge or trial. That’s because its focus on protections for citizens and green-card holders implies that non-citizens could be militarily detained. The goal should be to prohibit domestic use of the military entirely. That’s the protection provided to everyone in the United States by the Posse Comitatus Act. That principle would be broken if the military can find an opening to operate against civilians here at home, maybe under the guise of going after non-citizens. This is truly an instance where, when some lose their rights, all lose rights — even those who look like they are being protected.
  • It is inconsistent with the Constitution, which makes clear that basic due process rights apply to everyone in the United States. No group of immigrants should be denied the most basic due process right of all — the right to be charged and tried before being imprisoned.
  • It would set some dangerous precedents for Congress: that the military may have a role in America itself, that indefinite detention without charge or trial can be contemplated in the United States, and that some immigrants can be easily carved out of the most basic due process protections.

The executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League just wrote to Congress:

The [Feinstein] amendment is of particular concern to the Japanese American Citizens League because of our historic concern stemming from the Japanese American incarceration experience during World War II.  Nearly half of the internees were not United States citizens, and would not have been protected by this amendment.  In consideration of due process and the rule of law within the United States, we urge you to oppose the Feinstein amendment, unless revised to protect all persons in the United States from indefinite detention without charge or trial.

The Senate on Thursday approved by a 67-29 vote to adopt the Feinstein amendment, with the vote mostly following partisan lines. This does not mean that the GOP is really in favor of protecting civil liberties, but it is clear that on this issue the Democrats are in favor of taking away our liberties.

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