I long ago accepted that most of the people in Washington had lost their minds and the rest were a bit wobbly on reality. I did not think that Carl Levin would be one of them. But read this and see if you don’t think that he has lost all sense of proportion. Also note that one Senator is standing up for sanity. From DemocracyNow:
AMY GOODMAN: The Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on a Pentagon spending bill that could usher in a radical expansion of indefinite detention under the U.S. government. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. The measure would effectively extend the definition of what’s considered the U.S. military’s battlefield to anywhere in the world, even the United States. The measure’s authors, Democratic Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, have been campaigning for its passage in a bipartisan effort. But, the White House has issued a veto threat with backing from top officials including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James clapper, an FBI Director Robert Mueller. The measure was inserted into the full military spending bill after the Armed Services Committee quietly approved it without a single public hearing. Now Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set Wednesday as a procedural vote day to advance the legislation. For more we’re joined by Daphne Eviatar, Senior Associate with the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First. On Monday, Human Rights First released a letter from 26 retired military leaders urging the Senate to vote against the measure as well as against a separate provision that would repeal the executive order banning torture. Daphne Eviatar joins us in the studio today. Welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain exactly what this legislation is about.
DAPHNE EVIATAR: OK, first of all, the legislation is 680 pages long, and so one reason this has been able to get through so quietly is that the controversial provisions [Amendment 1107] are just three or four provisions within this huge package. The ones that we’re particularly concerned about, are for—-specifically the one you mentioned about creating a system of indefinite military detention within the United States by statute…
DAPHNE EVIATAR: … another very controversial provision in the bill and what the administration has particularly objected to, is the mandatory military custody provision which would say anyone suspected of terrorism in any way connected to Al Qaeda would have to be put into military custody. So, the government wouldn’t even have the option. So, all these FBI investigations that are thwarting terrorist attacks and local police investigations, immediately that would have to be turned over to the U.S. military, and that would become a military action here in the United States, on U.S. soil.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the [Mark, not Tom] Udall Amendment?
DAPHNE EVIATAR: The Udall Amendment would basically table this.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are the military leaders who have signed on to the letter that you released this week?
DAPHNE EVIATAR: Those are retired generals and admirals, very senior people. Many of the same people who stood behind President Obama when he signed an executive order on his second day in office banning the use of torture and closing the CIA’s secret prisons. So many of those same people are saying, you know what, this is not a good idea.
DAPHNE EVIATAR: … the third provision, which I didn’t have a chance to talk about is just that it extends the transfer restrictions. It means you can’t transfer anyone out of Guantanamo. And the worst thing, and this is also something very few people have realized, but, Secretary Panetta mentioned this recently, is it would prevent the transfer of detainees out of Bagram and Afghanistan. So, we have about 3000 detainees being detained indefinitely in Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base. Now, the U.S. wants to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. This would make it almost impossible to do that, because you wouldn’t be able to transfer these detainees to Afghanistan because Afghanistan could never meet the conditions that are set out in the bill to accept detainees from the United States.
[In addition, legislation proposed by Senator Kelly Ayotte of NH would authorize torture]
OK, so in summary: Carl Levin has proposed suspending our obligations under international treaties and the US Constitution to permit indefinite detention by the military of anyone, even a US citizen inside the United States, on the mere suspicion of being involved in terror. If your neighbor doesn’t like you and anonymously calls in saying, “She talks to people who look foreign to me,” even if those people happen to be your British exchange student, that’s enough to send you to Guantanamo. And, he wants to keep us in Afghanistan forever so that we can hang onto 3000 people at Bagram. Either that or, in effect, transfer them abroad into a gulag. And, just as a bonus, Kelly Ayotte wants to authorize torture for anyone who lands up in the Gulag Archipelago the Levin-McCain legislation would create. This despite the fact that numerous senior military commanders think it’s a bad idea.
Our military leaders do not want torture, since that would make them war criminals under existing treaties:
Our military and intelligence agencies have made clear they do not want this issue revisited. In 2009 they unanimously reported they had all the authority they needed to effectively interrogate. Responding to calls to bring back “enhanced interrogation techniques,” when he was commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan last year, General Petraeus unequivocally stated “we should not go there.”
Fortunately, the ACLU has made it easy for you to write to your state’s senators here.