Internment in the US? Not on Our Watch

November 17, 2011


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.

The effort would threaten the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike, place terror suspects in mandatory military custody, and keep Guantanamo open in perpetuity.

The result is so insidious that the Chairs of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees,  who are at the heart of every key issue in the struggle against Al Qaeda, wrote an instant public response condemning the deal.

Senators Feinstein and Leahy said,

“Regrettably, the so-called ‘agreement’ reached today in the Senate Armed Services Committee will only harm the efforts of intelligence and law enforcement officials to bring to justice those who would harm Americans here and abroad.”

If the bill is passed, law enforcement would be swept to the margins and forced to hand over suspects to an already overstretched and overburdened military.

The US military have great expertise, but finding, tracking and prosecuting terror suspects is not on their resume.

Ordinary beat cops, FBI agents and intelligence offices, and judges are the front line against terrorists, and we silence them at our own peril.

Domestic courts and law enforcement have an unmatched record in stopping terrorists and gathering intelligence. The ratio of domestic criminal convictions to military commissions is over 500 to 6. Why abandon a tool that works for the sake of pride?

A broad swath of Senators have already said they are opposed to the deal, and the White House and Jeh Johnson, the chief lawyer at the Department of Defense, have condemned the bill as unnecessary and unworkable.

The bill cut out all those with the common sense and experience on intelligence and law enforcement, those who know that the bill would be a disaster.

Feinstein and Leahy added,

“We have said before that these proposals are unwise, and will harm our national security. That is as true today as it ever has been.”

Urge President Obama to veto the NDAA if it contains the detention provisions that would keep Guantanamo open.