Obama wants power to detain US citizens indefinitely

(Important update appended.)

The defense bill before the Senate has a very troubling provision: it allows the president to detain indefinitely any person who supports Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces”. The provision does not specify how the determination is made, and it provides no exemption for US citizens arrested on US soil.

According to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) (video here, cue to 4:43:02), an earlier version of the bill specifically excluded US citizens. That provision was removed at the behest of the Obama administration.

Let’s please not have any more nonsense about this president’s great concern for civil liberties. (UPDATE: There’s still plenty of instances of this president’s disdain for civil liberties, but this isn’t an example of it.)

POSTSCRIPT: There’s plenty of blame for Republicans as well. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) proposed an amendment that would have striken the provision. It was voted down 60-38, with most Democrats voting yea (but not enough) and most Republicans voting no.

UPDATE: I’m confused now. Andrew McCarthy writes that the president has had the power to detain US citizens as enemy combatants at least since World War 2:

In 1942, American citizen combatant Hans Haupt was captured by the FBI inside the U.S. and ordered detained as an enemy combatant by FDR. In 2002, American citizen combatant Jose Padilla was captured by the FBI inside the U.S. and ordered detained as an enemy combatant by Bush 43. . . As the Haupt and Padilla examples demonstrate, the president already has authority (in the ongoing war, under the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF)), to detain American citizens as enemy combatants.

This isn’t consistent with what David Kopel wrote, and I’m not sure who’s right.

Further muddying the waters are two amendments (at least, I think they’re two different amendments), each of which purportedly do what Kopel says the bill does without any amendments. One is by Sessions (1274), and the other by McCain and Levin (couldn’t find a number for that one). McCarthy was talking about the latter; the former was the subject of this statement by Rand Paul. I couldn’t find text for either amendment.

UPDATE (12/9): Mea culpa. I’m now convinced to the opposite view, that the bill does not change the law, and that existing law is pretty reasonable. More here.

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