12-7-11: “Until the End”
On Thursday, 93 U.S. Senators, including Maryland Democrats Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, voted for a defense authorization bill that would give the military power to detain those suspected of supporting Al Qaeda or the Taliban “under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”
Some believe this bill will apply to those seized on U.S. soil–even U.S. citizens–bringing the battlefield to the homeland. President Obama is a threatening a veto, the heads of the FBI, National Intelligence, and the Pentagon are opposed, and civil libertarians are waving red flags.
Anthony Villa, Senior Law and Policy Analyst at the University of Maryland School of Law, tells us what this bill means for civilian prosecution of terrorism, and for the balance of national security and civil liberties. Senators Cardin and Mikulski declined to join us, citing scheduling conflicts. A spokesperson for Sen. Ben Cardin sent this statement:
I supported several amendments, including one by Senator Tom Udall, to the recently-passed defense authorization bill that would limit the military’s authority to detain accused terrorists on US soil. We must remain vigilant after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation but we also must protect the civil liberties and the civil rights of all Americans. This balance is essential to the rule of law under the Constitution that we Americans cherish. Federal civilian courts have the capacity, resources, and procedures in place to handle terrorism cases and violations of our criminal law, and they have done so successfully for many years before the 9/11 attacks. As the former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, I believe Congress and the Administration must work together to ensure that all relevant civilian and military organizations can continue to cooperate in an effort to keep the American people safe without expanding the authority of our military here at home.
A spokesperson for Sen. Mikulski sent this quote:
We owe it to our men and women in uniform fighting on the frontlines to pass the Defense Authorization bill to provide them with the support they need to accomplish their mission. Senator Udall’s amendment ensures the safety and security of our nation while protecting the rights and liberties of our citizens. It gives our military leaders the tools they need to detain foreign terrorists and enemy combatants while keeping local, state and federal law enforcement in charge of securing our homeland.