Saturday, December 31, 2011

President Obama Signed the Indefinite Detention Bill

Well, fun.  Excerpts:
President Barack Obama on Saturday reluctantly signed a defense authorization bill, saying he was concerned about some in Congress who want to restrict options used by counterterrorism officials.

"I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists," he said of the $662 billion legislation.

The White House had lifted a veto threat against the bill after legislators made changes in language involving detainees.

In particular, the legislators added language to make clear that nothing in the bill requiring military custody of al Qaeda suspects would interfere with the ability of civilian law enforcement to carry out terrorism investigations and interrogations in the United States...

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the legislation includes a "national security waiver" that allows the president to transfer a suspect from military to civilian custody if he chooses.

"I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens," Obama said in a statement Saturday. "Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation."

Obama said a section of the bill provides the "executive branch" with broad authority on military custody for non-citizen detainees...
Hm. He said "my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens." He did not say his administration could not do this--merely that they would not.


41 Senators Need to Lose the Next Election

Let Jon Stewart introduce the issue:
And then, of course, there's wonderful moments like this from C-SPAN and the Senate floor:
At which point, I think there might be some valid concerns.  Because the administration asked that the language excluding US citizens from the bill be removed.  Also, they expressed concern that the bill unduly restricts Executive power.

And the bill, apparently (according to Senator Lindsey Graham), declares the whole world, "including the homeland," part of the battlefield.
The above refers to the portions of the bill which were passed.  When it comes to what might have been...well, the Senate has officially lost it.  Evidence:
"Offered to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2012 (S.1867), amendment No. 1274 would have allowed the U.S. government to detain an American citizen indefinitely, even after they had been tried and found not guilty, until Congress declares an end to the war on terror."
Sponsored by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Voted for by 41 members of the US Senate, including two Democrats, one Independent, and the rest Republicans.

Let us review the Constitution...I was sure...ah, yes. Here it is.
Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Methinks the constituents of 41 US Senators need to make known, loudly and clearly, exactly what will happen next election.  They all need to lose reelection--every one of the 41 Senators who voted for this amendment.  If some evidence comes forward to show that Sen. Paul grossly mischaracterized the nature of the amendment, I'll take a different position.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal makes that really unlikely:
...the fight was closer over an amendment proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. The amendment focused on a scenario where an al Qaeda suspect is acquitted in a court—whether military or civil—but is still judged a terrorist threat...

"Like any other captured combatant, he can be held as long as hostilities continue...."

Mr. Paul didn’t think so, and he focused particularly on the case where the accused terrorist was an American citizen. “If the evidence does not support conviction, it would be against everything we believe in and fight for in America to still allow the government to imprison you at their whim,” he said last night in a statement.

Earlier in the week, he told the Senate, “There is one thing and one thing only protecting innocent Americans from being detained at will at the hands of a too-powerful state – our Constitution, and the checks we put on government power"...

The Sessions amendment failed on a 41-59 vote. Even so, under some interpretations of current law, the president could order the kind of preventive detention Mr. Sessions advocated.
But otherwise, this is gross misconduct.  These people are unfit for the office they hold.

Now, some claim there's nothing to be concerned about with Senate Bill 1867, otherwise known as the National Defense Authorization Act:
...Section 1031, which relates to the use of the armed forces to detain covered people “pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force,” has a very narrow purpose of describing detention “under the law of war” of people who either participated in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or is a member or “substantial supporter” of al-Qaida, the Taliban, or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

This DOES apply to U.S. citizens, but it has already been established in plentiful detail that traitors who join forces with the enemy are subject to military law, including detention and worse.

This concern about protecting Americans who might be judged by the government to be at war with the United States seems to be misplaced, at best, and mischievous at worst. There is a virtually nil chance that you or your neighbors will be swept up off the street and locked up in “indefinite detention” unless you are indeed engaged in war against the United States.

At that point, sorry, you lose most of your civil liberties...
Hang on. Wait a minute. Isn't there some crucial middle step in this process between "war with the United States" and "indefinite detention?" Something...oh, what's the phrase...due to people? Some sort of process? Involving law?
Article 3, Section. 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
So the people who argue there's nothing to be afraid of end up giving me cause to be, frankly, rather afraid.

More Information:

Bill Number S.1867 for the 112th Congress 

Authorization for Use of Military Force
Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget on the bill.
The Washington Post
Mark Shea
The Anchoress

Senators Voting Yea on Sen. Sessions' Amendment
  1. Alexander (R-TN)
  2. Ayotte (R-NH)
  3. Barrasso (R-WY)
  4. Blunt (R-MO)
  5. Boozman (R-AR)
  6. Burr (R-NC)
  7. Chambliss (R-GA)
  8. Coats (R-IN)
  9. Coburn (R-OK)
  10. Cochran (R-MS)
  11. Cornyn (R-TX)
  12. Crapo (R-ID)
  13. DeMint (R-SC)
  14. Enzi (R-WY)
  15. Graham (R-SC)
  16. Grassley (R-IA)
  17. Hatch (R-UT)
  18. Hoeven (R-ND)
  19. Hutchison (R-TX)
  20. Inhofe (R-OK)
  21. Isakson (R-GA)
  22. Johanns (R-NE)
  23. Johnson (R-WI)
  24. Kyl (R-AZ)
  25. Lieberman (ID-CT)
  26. Lugar (R-IN)
  27. Manchin (D-WV)
  28. McConnell (R-KY)
  29. Moran (R-KS)
  30. Murkowski (R-AK)
  31. Portman (R-OH)
  32. Pryor (D-AR)
  33. Risch (R-ID)
  34. Roberts (R-KS)
  35. Rubio (R-FL)
  36. Sessions (R-AL)
  37. Shelby (R-AL)
  38. Thune (R-SD)
  39. Toomey (R-PA)
  40. Vitter (R-LA)
  41. Wicker (R-MS)
Here's the OMB's commentary on the bill.  Egregious excerpts:
“The Administration supports Senate passage of S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The Administration appreciates the Senate Armed Services Committee’s continued support of our national defense…

While there are many areas of agreement with the Committee, the Administration would have serious concerns with provisions that would: (1) constrain the ability of the Armed Forces to carry out their missions;…

Detainee Matters: The Administration objects to and has serious legal and policy concerns about many of the detainee provisions in the bill. In their current form, some of these provisions disrupt the Executive branch’s ability to enforce the law and impose unwise and unwarranted restrictions on the U.S. Government’s ability to aggressively combat international terrorism; other provisions inject legal uncertainty and ambiguity that may only complicate the military’s operations and detention practices.

Section 1031 attempts to expressly codify the detention authority that exists under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) (the “AUMF”). The authorities granted by the AUMF, including the detention authority, are essential to our ability to protect the American people from the threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces, and have enabled us to confront the full range of threats this country faces from those organizations and individuals. Because the authorities codified in this section already exist, the Administration does not believe codification is necessary and poses some risk. After a decade of settled jurisprudence on detention authority, Congress must be careful not to open a whole new series of legal questions that will distract from our efforts to protect the country. While the current language minimizes many of those risks, future legislative action must ensure that the codification in statute of express military detention authority does not carry unintended consequences that could compromise our ability to protect the American people.

The Administration strongly objects to the military custody provision of section 1032, which would appear to mandate military custody for a certain class of terrorism suspects. This unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial restriction of the President’s authority to defend the Nation from terrorist threats would tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals. Moreover, applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the United States, as some Members of Congress have suggested is their intention, would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets. We have spent ten years since September 11, 2001, breaking down the walls between intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals; Congress should not now rebuild those walls and unnecessarily make the job of preventing terrorist attacks more difficult. Specifically, the provision would limit the flexibility of our national security professionals to choose, based on the evidence and the facts and circumstances of each case, which tool for incapacitating dangerous terrorists best serves our national security interests...

Section 1034′s ban on the use of funds to construct or modify a detention facility in the United States is an unwise intrusion on the military’s ability to transfer its detainees as operational needs dictate...In short, the matters addressed in these provisions are already well regulated by existing procedures and have traditionally been left to the discretion of the Executive branch...

Broadly speaking, the detention provisions in this bill micromanage the work of our experienced counterterrorism professionals, including our military commanders, intelligence professionals, seasoned counterterrorism prosecutors, or other operatives in the field. These professionals have successfully led a Government-wide effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents over two consecutive Administrations. The Administration believes strongly that it would be a mistake for Congress to overrule or limit the tactical flexibility of our Nation’s counterterrorism professionals.

Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto

Constitutional concerns: A number of the bill’s provisions raise additional constitutional concerns, such as sections 233 and 1241, which could intrude on the President’s constitutional authority to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive diplomatic communications. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address these and other concerns.”

White House to Sign Off on Indefinite Detention Bill

Oh, brilliant. Excerpts:
The White House is signing off on a controversial new law that would authorize the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely detain alleged al Qaeda members or other terrorist operatives captured on American soil.

As the bill neared final passage in the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday, the Obama administration announced it would support passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains slightly watered-down provisions giving the military a front line role in domestic terrorism cases.

The administration abandoned its long-held veto threat due to changes in the final version of the bill, namely that in its view, the military custody mandate has been "softened." The bill now gives the President the immediate power to issue a waiver of the military custody requirement, instead of the Defense Secretary, and gives the President discretion in implementing these new provisions.

"We have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the President's ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the President's senior advisors will not recommend a veto," the White House statement said...

While the bill never expanded the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely without charges, proponents said the legislation would codify court decisions finding the President does have the authority to declare "enemy combatants," as commander-in-chief and under the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and its allies. The administration, which has pledged not to use this power, believes the bill leaves this legal issue unresolved...

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
worship the LORD with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song.
Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock.
Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving. Give thanks to God, bless his name;
good indeed is the LORD, Whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Batman Attacked in China

Umm...I meant Christian Bale.
All Christian Bale wanted to do was tell a guy thank you, he said – but instead he got roughed up by a pack of apparent security guards and chased away from the home where a Chinese dissident has been held under house arrest for months.

“What I really wanted to do was shake the man’s hand and say thank you, tell him what an inspiration he is,” Bale said after the incident, which concluded with his party’s van being chased down the road by guards who jumped into their own vehicle and followed for more than half an hour.

“The man” Bale referred to is Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer and activist who has worked against China’s methods for enforcing its one-child policy – think forced abortion and sterilization. According to World Now, he has been kept under unofficial house arrest with his wife, mother and young daughter since September, when he was released after four years in prison related to charges he said he was not guilty of...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"At That Moment, I Was Pro-Life"

Remarkable. Excerpts:
...I kept saying, “You just made me pro-life!” I kept repeating it the next morning as well, awed by the change in me and how it had happened. It was completely unexpected, and more than a little unwelcome.

I went home and got on the computer and went immediately to pro-choice websites hoping to be unconvinced. Reality was setting in, and with it the understanding that a pro-life viewpoint was not compatible with my lifestyle, my friends, my political and religious beliefs, or my irreverent sense of humor. I felt a mild sense of panic, because if abortion was what I unfortunately now believed it was, then it was not only wrong, it was reprehensible. It was not just something I was going to disagree with, it was something I was going to have to fight.

The pro-choice websites couldn’t unconvince me of the wrongness of abortion, and the scientific information I found only made things worse. More than anything, I wanted to find those photos discredited as fakes or misleading, but instead I found more photos, and plenty of authentication. I found a video in which a former abortionist turned pro-life activist, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, handled an aborted fetus and described it to the viewer. I watched and wept...

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Challenge to Libertarians And Other Individualists

Citizens of the world, love thy neighbor as thyself.  Excerpts:
Humanity today must strive towards the goal of integral human development. Increasingly aware of his interdependence, man of today must feel that "everyone is responsible for everything" and that he must pursue the common good by promoting solidarity among generations, protecting the dignity of every human being and protecting nature. And without the fear that this common responsibility clashes with religious and cultural differences.

These are concepts dear to Benedict XVI, who confirmed them today to a group of 11 ambassadors received for the presentation of their Letter of credentials...

Mankind, noted the Pope, has understood that " the unity of the human family is now as an everyday fact." This has positive aspects, but "it is sometimes experienced as a burden," meaning that this unity "significantly broadens the scope of responsibility of each one of us, making the solution of problems proportionally complex to the number of those seeking to act".

Interdependence must be lived "not as a threat, but an advantage that men have to work with each other, for each other." Benedict XVI stressed in particular a positive aspect of this shared responsibility: the growth of inter-generational solidarity. "This finds its roots in the natural family, which must be supported so it may continues to fulfill its essential mission in society. At the same the education of young people remains the privileged way to broaden the field of solidarity and ensure promotion in the long-term . " A field towards which Benedict XVI encourages everyone, especially governments, "to show their creativity, to find and invest the resources necessary to give young people basic ethical foundations, in particular by helping in their formation and by fighting social ills such as unemployment, drugs, crime and disrespect of the person. "

Finally, he added that "there need be no fear that this common and shared responsibility for the good of all mankind will find a constant source of opposition in cultural and religious differences". The pluralism of cultures and religions is not opposed to common quest for what is true, good and beautiful." Human reason, purified by faith, allows man to rise and "is capable of overcoming the constraints or partisan interest, to recognize the universal good of which all men are in need. Among these, peace and the much desired social and religious harmony are linked not only to a just and suitable legislative framework, but also to the moral quality of every citizen, because solidarity contains two complementary aspects: social principle and moral virtue."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"The Muslim Brotherhood Is Not Credible"

Interesting point.  Excerpts:
“The Muslim Brotherhood is not credible. We want facts, not words,” said Fr Rafik Greiche, spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Church, as he commented a statement made by Mohammed Badie, head of the Islamist organisation, in the defence of Christians...

“The Muslim Brotherhood is always issuing statements. In the beginning, they were very harsh against non-Muslims,” Fr Greiche said. However, “If a pro-democracy or Christian leader protested, they would quickly change their tune to avoid being labelled extremist.”

Time after time, this type of attitude manifested itself during the Jasmine Revolution, which the Brotherhood first resisted but eventually accepted for electoral reasons.

“In the past few days, one of the most important spiritual leaders (Mourshed) of the Muslim Brotherhood said that anyone who is opposed to Sharia should be expelled from the country, a clear reference to Christians. Yesterday, Mohammed Badie said instead that all citizens should be equal...”

For Fr Greiche, contradictions also characterise relations with Salafists, the hard face of radical Islam, whom the Brotherhood used in the campaign to scare moderate Muslims and religious minorities. Yet, in some ridings, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists ran on the same list...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Say Yes to God in Advent

As did the Mother, as did the Child.
...We are living in urgent times, where illusions are swirling all about, making it difficult to discern what is true and what is not. We are distracted by a thousand things, especially in this season — and our attention is being spun toward the promptings of every sort of gadget, gizmo and noisemaker.

What happens when we are constantly spun? We become dizzy and cannot see things with directness and clarity.

Directness and clarity are at an absolute premium, these days, and I think I am not alone in wondering if we maintain our willingness to be spun and distracted at our own peril...


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