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U.S. Senate Authorizes Military to Detain U.S. Citizens

A column by Steven Russell about the new National Defense Authorization Act.

On December 1, the United States Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA/S. 1867) which includes a provision that would approve the indefinite military detention of anyone, including U.S. citizens, “under the law of war without trial.”

Section 1031 of the Act reads in part as follows:

“Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force…includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons…Detention under the law of war without trial.” This language was drafted in secret by Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan).

On November 29, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) said on the floor of the Senate: “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”

The White House reportedly has threatened a presidential veto of the bill because of the detention language. However, Senator Levin said that Obama Administration had asked for language to be removed from the bill "expressly precluding 'the detention of citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States.' " On December 1, the Senate voted down (61 to 37) an amendment by Diane Feinstein (D-California) that would have stripped the troubling provision from S. 1867.

The ominous prospect of the “prolonged detention” of U.S. citizens without charge or trial, calls to mind Edward Gibbon’s great work, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Take the following remarks about Emperor Augustus: “Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation that the senate and the people would submit to slavery, provided that they were respectfully assured that they enjoyed their ancient freedom.”

In the present case, however, it is a majority of the 100-member U.S. Senate that has further "submitted" the American people to authoritarian rule, all in the name of upholding liberty and justice for all, while claiming to be safeguarding the people from terrorism. Thus, the question arises, “How did the U.S. get to this point?”

After the U.S. Senate passed the Patriot Act in October 2001, then Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) Wisconsin, the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act, appeared on Larry King Live on CNN. I happened to be watching the program and recall Senator Feingold saying, “The question was not about whether or not to suspend the Constitution, but for how long.” Thus, according to Russ Feingold, the question came down to a suspension of the U.S. Constitution.

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After the Patriot Act was passed, then-Vice President Dick Cheney began talking in terms of “the new normalcy.” UC Berkeley Professor Peter Dale Scott recently wrote an article that appeared on the website Global Research (November 22, 2011). Scott tells the story of a secret program called Project Doomsday and COG (“Continuity of Government”) which involved Colonel Oliver North and “a secret plan to suspend the U.S. Constitution in the event of a national emergency.” As Scott states, “COG planning, had been carefully developed since 1982…by a secret group appointed by [President] Reagan.” This “group was composed of both public and private figures, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.”

Scott refers to “a political process that has helped build up repressive power in America at the expense of democracy.” He traces this to “that dark force” which “has operated for five decades or more at the edge of the public state.”

Now that the United States Senate has authorized the subjection of U.S. citizens to prolonged military detention (internment)under the law of war without trial, it appears that a dark force indeed is in control of the U.S. government. On Dec. 1, the following exchange occurred on the Senate floor:

Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) “My question would be, under the provisions, would it possible that an American citizens, then, could be declared an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo Bay and detained indefinitely?”

Senator John McCain: “I think that as long as that individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security to the United States of America should not be allowed to continue that threat.” In other words, "yes."

At least since 1996, the U.S. Executive Branch has classified Indigenous peoples’ issues as matters of national security for the United States. Thus, what does Senator McCain’s remarks mean for Indigenous peoples’ representatives who have worked and continue to work on such issues? (See ‘US National Security Council, Position on Indigenous Peoples, 18 October 2001)

The U.S. ship-of-state is headed directly towards a gigantic iceberg, and a majority of U.S. senators have now voted in favor of a course ‘full steam ahead.’

Steven Newcomb, Shawnee/Lenape, is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum), and a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network.