Bill allowing indefinite detention of terrorists raises concerns among conservatives, pro-lifers
WASHINGTON, DC, December 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Reports that President Obama is poised to sign a controversial Defense Authorization Act that includes a provision allowing the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists has come as unwelcome news to many political activists, including pro-lifers.
While the language of the bill specifically targets those with suspected ties to Al Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, Sen. Rand Paul, an opponent of the law, pointed out in a speech on the Senate floor that existing federal policies define terrorist suspects so broadly as to invite the arbitrary targeting of innocent American civilians.
“There are laws on the books now that characterize who might be a terrorist. Someone missing fingers on their hands is a suspect according to the Department of Justice. Someone who has guns, someone who has ammunition that is weather-proofed, someone who has more than seven days of food in their house, can be considered a potential terrorist,” he said.
He added: “These terms are dangerously vague. More than a decade after 9/11 the military has been unable to define the earmarks of membership in or affiliation to either Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.”
Past reports of hostility directed by government officials against pro-lifers make many conservatives particularly wary of expanding the government’s power to suspend civil liberties.
A 2009 report issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and distributed to local law enforcement officials claimed that opposition to abortion was a sign of potentially violent “right-wing extremism,” and linked the pro-life stance to the white supremacist movement. Faced with intense criticism, the DHS recalled the report shortly after it was issued.
Last year, the Department of Justice also sponsored “training seminars” designed to teach attendees how to handle “violent” and “intimidating” pro-life activism, such as displaying graphic signs of aborted babies or handing out information about how many women an abortionist has killed or injured.
Senators who had worked the legislation confirmed during floor debate that the original version of the Senate bill made American citizens subject to military detention.
When questioned by Sen. Paul as to whether an American citizen “could be declared an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo Bay and detained indefinitely,” Senator John McCain responded: “I think that as long as that individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat.”
Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, revealed that the provision authorizing the Executive branch to detain terrorist suspects originally exempted American citizens, but that the exemption was removed at the request of the Obama Administration.
While some sources are saying that the final, conferenced version of the legislation exempts U.S. citizens from military detention, others are contending that the language does not go far enough to fully protect Americans.
An amendment added by Senator Dianne Feinstein and included in the final version of the bill states that nothing in the law “shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities, relating to the detention of United States citizens.”
Congressman Justin Amash, however, reportedly called Feinstein’s amendment “cleverly worded nonsense.”
In a statement released yesterday, Congressman Alcee Hastings charged that the final version of the legislation does not in fact protect American citizens from indefinite detention.
“This legislation establishes an authority for open-ended war anywhere in the world, and against anyone,” he wrote.