by Peter Grady –
The U.S. Senate passed a bill that the ACLU and Sen. Mark Udall said would allow the military to detain Americans on our own soil.
S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization bill was opposed by President Obama, the American Civil Liberties Union and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall. Obama has threatened to veto the bill because he feels it will unduly inhibit his ability to fight the global war on terror.
The controversial sections are 1031 and 1032, which critics say grants sweeping new powers to the president allowing him to use the military to detain any U.S. citizen indefinitely within the country itself.
In opposing the bill the ACLU said “The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.”
Sen. Mark Udall echoed similar sentiments saying “One section of these provisions, section 1031, would be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil. Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil.”
Udall subsequently proposed an amendment that he claims would alleviate these concerns. The Obama administration supported Udall’s amendment.
When one reads the actual text, it appears as if Udall’s amendment would have granted the president more authority than the sections the ACLU, Obama and others opposed.
Section 1031 of the bills explicitly states “Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”
Section 1032 , which the ACLU says gives the president “the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world,” actually says “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.”
The Udall amendment which was supported by Obama and the ACLU repeals section 1032 which states it does not apply to American citizens; and instead calls for Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security secretary to submit a report explaining what additional powers the president should be granted.
The amendment states that after receiving the report, Congress will pass legislation “modifying or expanding the authority of the Executive Branch to carry out detention and prosecution of covered persons.”
At that time Congress could have theoretically granted the military authority to detain American citizens on U.S. soil.
The Senate instead chose to reject the Udall amendment that could have granted the president more powers, favoring instead the bill that preserves the status quo.