Senate Dems: Mandatory Military Detention Is “Dangerous”

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A group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last Friday slamming the detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act as “undue and dangerous”:

Section 1032 would require that certain terrorism suspects be held in the custody of the Armed Forces, which could disrupt vital counterterrorism operations. For example, if these controversial provisions are enacted, the FBI might have to hand over a terrorism suspect captured in the U.S.—like Najibullah Zazi—to the military in the middle of an interrogation, even if the individual is providing usefl intelligence to the FBI about an unfolding terrorist plot. In addition, under these sections, a suspected terrorist captured abroad—such as Ahmed Warsame—may have to be kept in military custody, even if potential charges against the suspect are available only in Federal criminal courts and not military commissions. In sum, mandatory military custody is unwise and will harm our national security.

The letter was sent a day after a mostly party line vote on a Republican amendment adding even more onerous restrictions on detention to an unrelated spending bill. Months ago, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee agreed on a “compromise” in the NDAA that would have mandated military detention for non-citizens suspected of al-Qaeda related terrorism unless the Secretary of Defense explicilty approved a transfer to federal court.

The Obama administration objected, arguing that the provision would interfere with the president’s ability to deal effectively with terrorism, and Reid has been holding up the bill while another compromise is negotiated. In response, Senate Republicans along with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), voted for an amendment put forth by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that was even more restrictive, mandating military detention of suspected non-citizen terrorists with no exceptions. Ayotte’s proposal had previously been voted down in the Armed Services Committee, so the vote was basically a way for the GOP to tell Reid and the administration to go take a hike.

The sad thing is that in the name of being “tougher” on terror, most Republicans and some Democrats have agreed to detention provisions that would actually make it harder neutralize terrorists. It’s pretty much the definition of culture war counterrorism.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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