The Senate voted Tuesday to keep a controversial provision to let the military detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial — prompting White House officials to reissue a veto threat.
The measure, part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, was also opposed by civil libertarians on the left and right. But 16 Democrats and an independent joined with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would have killed the provision, voting it down with 61 against, and 37 for it.
Democrats who were also concerned about liberties compared the military policing of Americans to the detention of Americans in internment camps during World War II.
"Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who offered another amendment — which has not yet gotten a vote — that she said would correct the problem. "We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge."
Backers of military detention of Americans — a measure crafted by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) — came out swinging against Udall’s amendment on the Senate floor earlier Tuesday.
"The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United States and [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity?" Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.
"They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer," Graham said. "They should be held humanely in military custody and interrogated about why they joined al Qaeda and what they were going to do to all of us." [OMG…these people are running our government…so frightening!!]
The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act would authorize defense spending on military personnel, weapons and war. The first draft of the bill won support from both parties in Congress in October, passing out of the Senate Armed Services Committee with just Udall dissenting. A similar House bill allocating $690 billion for the Pentagon passed in May, without the controversial measure. It could be changed when the differing versions are merged, if Congress desires.