First, I should note that there continues to be a strong debate on whether the NDAA actually allows for indefinite detention of US citizens (it should be a red flag whenever legislative intent is unclear). The language used is ambiguous, thus leading to different interpretations. The simple fact that it is vague opens it up to being interpreted as allowing for the indefinite detention of US citizens.
The Patriot Act allows the government to essentially spy on citizens suspected of terrorism. It opened up privacy laws to allow government access to phone and financial records. It also allowed for the indefinite detention of NON-U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist activities. Thus, the primary difference, and it would seem to support this interpretation (otherwise why enact new provisions in the NDAA), is that the NDAA appears to allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.
Personally, indefinite detention of citizens or non-citizens is a violation of human rights, so both acts are egregious.
I am far from an expert on such matters, so if someone else would like to respond, please do.
There was some confusion regarding the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act. A friend texted me the previous article saying the NDAA had been signed. I tried to do source checking on my phone and found a number of things that appeared to support that report, so I posted. I apologize for fueling this confusion. Thepete brought this correction to my attention.
According OpenCongress.org, Obama has NOT yet signed the 2012 NDAA. Please refer to HR 1540 to stay updated on the official passing of the NDAA.
What caused the confusion was this news report from TPM:
Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed speculation Wednesday that President Barack Obama would issue a signing statement when he makes the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its controversial detention provisions law.
“We made really substantial progress in moving from something that was really unacceptable to the administration to something with which we still have problems,” Holder said in response to a question from the Wall Street Journal’s Evan Perez. “But I think through these procedures, with these regulations we will be crafting, we can minimize the problems that will actually affect us in an operational way.”
Holder said the language of the NDAA had been moved in a “substantial way” from some of the original language which led the president to issue a veto threat.
If the above report is true and he will be issuing a signing statement, well then I bring your attention to a video of Obama promising America that he would follow the Constitution and that he would never use signing statements as an end-run around Congress (which, from his own words, is not in the President’s constitutional powers).
By Matt Taibbi
There’s some disturbing rhetoric flying around in the debate over the National Defense Authorization Act, which among other things contains passages that a) officially codify the already-accepted practice of indefinite detention of “terrorist” suspects, and b) transfer the responsibility for such detentions exclusively to the military.
The fact that there’s been only some muted public uproar about this provision (which, disturbingly enough, is the creature of Wall Street anti-corruption good guy Carl Levin, along with John McCain) is mildly surprising, given what’s been going on with the Occupy movement. Protesters in fact should be keenly interested in the potential applications of this provision, which essentially gives the executive branch unlimited powers to indefinitely detain terror suspects without trial.
The really galling thing is that this act specifically envisions American citizens falling under the authority of the bill. One of its supporters, the dependably-unlikeable Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, bragged that the law "basically says … for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield" and that people can be jailed without trial, be they "American citizen or not." New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte reiterated that "America is part of the battlefield."
Officially speaking, of course, the bill only pertains to:
"… a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
As Glenn Greenwald notes, the key passages here are “substantially supported” and “associated forces.” The Obama administration and various courts have already expanded their definition of terrorism to include groups with no connection to 9/11 (i.e. certain belligerents in Yemen and Somalia) and to individuals who are not members of the target terror groups, but merely provided “substantial support.”
The definitions, then, are, for the authorities, conveniently fungible. They may use indefinite detention against anyone who “substantially supports” terror against the United States, and it looks an awful lot like they have leeway in defining not only what constitutes “substantial” and “support,” but even what “terror” is. Is a terrorist under this law necessarily a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban? Or is it merely someone who is “engaged in hostilities against the United States”?
Here’s where I think we’re in very dangerous territory. We have two very different but similarly large protest movements going on right now in the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. What if one of them is linked to a violent act? What if a bomb goes off in a police station in Oakland, or an IRS office in Texas? What if the FBI then “linked” those acts to Occupy or the Tea Party?
You can see where this is going. When protesters on the left first started flipping out about George Bush’s indefinite detention and rendition policies, most people thought the idea that these practices might someday be used against ordinary Americans was merely an academic concern, something theoretical.
But it’s real now. If these laws are passed, we would be forced to rely upon the discretion of a demonstrably corrupt and consistently idiotic government to not use these awful powers to strike back at legitimate domestic unrest.
I wouldn’t trust Fox News.
LOL, I knew someone was going to say that! ;) Here are a few more sources since I first learned of this news (which was initially from Twitter…which sadly is better respected than Fox News lol).
Politico (which I post below because I appreciate the short and informative way it is presented):
The National Defense Authorization Act and its controversial provisions regarding detention of terror suspects passed the House of Representatives Wednesday night, 283-136.
The measure split Democrats right down the middle, with 93 voting in favor and 93 against legislation that President Barack Obama tactily endorsed earlier in the day by retreating from a veto threat. Though the bill passed handily just before 7:00 PM, there was a surprising amount of opposition from Tea Party faithful and other conservative GOP members, 43 of whom opposed the legislation. (A full roll call is posted here.)
"We have ensured that as we fight terrorists around the world, we also protect the civil liberties of Americans at home," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement issued minutes after the vote. The measure goes on to the Senate, where an earlier version of the legislation passed 93-7.
Meanwhile, civil liberties and human rights groups were in a furor Wednesday night over Obama’s decision to drop his veto threat following changes made to the detainee-related sections of the bill.
"By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law,” Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”
The House passed a massive $662 billion defense bill Wednesday night after last-minute changes placated the White House and ensured President Barack Obama’s ability to prosecute terrorist suspects in the civilian justice system.
The vote was 283-136 and reflected the strong support for annual legislation that authorizes money for the men and women of the military as well as weapons systems and the millions of jobs they generate in lawmakers’ districts.
It was a rare instance of bipartisanship in a bitterly divided Congress. The Senate is expected to pass the measure on Thursday and send it to Obama.
The House vote came just hours after the administration abandoned a veto threat over provisions dealing with the handling of terrorism suspects.
Applying pressure on House and Senate negotiators working on the bill last week, Obama and senior members of his national security team, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, had pressed for modifications in the provisions.
Negotiators announced the changes late Monday, clearing the way for White House acceptance.
In a statement, press secretary Jay Carney said the new bill “does not challenge the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the American people.”
Specifically, the bill would require that the military take custody of a suspect deemed to be a member of Al Qaeda or its affiliates and who is involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States. There is an exemption for U.S. citizens.