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Dismantling the Constitution One Step at a Time
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The mainstream media has been virtually ignoring a new bit of Senate mischief initiated a month ago by the redoubtable duo John McCain and Joe Lieberman. It is called “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010.” The proposed law appears to have bipartisan support though it is not clear if it has enough votes to pass into law and the position of the Obama Administration regarding it has not been declared, though the president has not been shy about expanding presidential authority up until now.

The act would make it possible for the US military to seize and imprison anyone anywhere in the world, including American citizens, on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. This includes “material support” which is not otherwise defined. The imprisonment would be under the authority of the president as commander in chief. McCain and Lieberman’s bill defines the detainees as “unprivileged enemy belligerents,” which is apparently what the Obama justice department prefers rather than the Bush and Cheney designation “unlawful enemy combatants.” The bill’s language identifies and includes not only actual terrorists but also individuals of “potential intelligence value” and other categories “as the president considers appropriate.” Part of the bill, “Detention Without Trial of Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents,” authorizes suspects to “be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” It would create a new category of prisoner for whom there will be no charges, no trial, and no civilian judicial review. It would be a de facto suspension of the US Bill of Rights.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Civil Liberties 
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  1. Jack Ross says:

    I’ve said before that I never expected Obama to be good on civil liberties, but I still find it dubious that he would actually outflank Cheney on these things. Even with respect to Guantanamo, forget principle, he knows he can’t hand Cheney a political and moral victory. A bill such as this seems to reflect the same desperation that Obama can be pushed into being more neocon than Bush as with the notion that he could be forced to attack Iran.

    If the Supreme Court struck down as many Bush-era shenanigans as it did, there’s no reason to believe that they would spare this. And who knows, Obama may have just decided to pass the buck to judiciary on all these questions.

  2. Hunter says:

    “It would be a de facto suspension of the US Bill of Rights.”

    I’m pretty sure it’s worse than that; the principles of natural justice (right to confront one’s accuser, etc.) go back to Roman times, and are legally vouchsafed not only by the Bill of Rights, but also by such Constitutional clauses as the right to Habeus Corpus. This would be an end run around ALL of that. Thanks, John McCain, true patriot!

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    >>> “I’ve said before that I never expected Obama to be good on civil liberties”

    There are places where he has continued Bush’s approaches (e.g. certain cases winding their way through the courts) and I’d definitely condemn him for that…

    … But I suspect the real blame for this bill lies with McCain/Lieberman. Obama should certainly veto it if it gets that far, but I don’t think he started this.

  4. I remember observing that Obama and the Congressional Dems had prevented any law from being passed “repealing torture”.

    I was quickly overwhelmed by other bloggers who insisted that an “executive Order” had been given, and now that Bush was gone, all we needed to do was “trust Obama”.

    I remember saying no sane or decent conservative would back McCain (and many of us used Sarah Palin as an excuse to make an exception to that in 2008).

    Now here’s what I’ll say: this current subject is small potatos. Let the government control major industries, the “carbon footprint”, healthcare, “taxing the internet”, and FCC “Fair Use”, and they really don’t need this ability to lock us up sans Habeus Corpus. It’s just a lagniappe to their customers, the labor unions and “community organizers” and the “international left-wing”.

  5. Just when we were getting used to Due Process too!

    I do wish, however, before John and Joe manage to get it over the side for good, somebody who knows what he is talking about would produce some evidence of all the damage that has been done specifically because Due Process requirements were being observed.
    If they are being observed.
    If somebody can be found down there who knows what he is talking about.

  6. mikeyes says:

    The ironic part is that this law could be used against the authors if they became powerful enough political enemies since the president can name the crime. Being against an uber-powerful executive would be enough if the wording mentioned is correct.

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