John McCain Is Furious That He Can't Lock Up Americans Under The NDAA

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Photo: mwr family via flickr

Late last year Senate Armed Services Chairman senior member John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich) crafted a National defence Authorization Act (NDAA) addendum that outraged Americans and put the president on the spot.The bill, in part, called for allowing  the indefinite detention of Americans with no due process whatsoever.

After Obama capitulated and signed the bill into law January 1, we identified the additions everyone was freaking out about:

  • Section 1021 of the NDAA allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain, without due process, any person engaged in “hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners … without trial until the end of hostilities.”
  • Section 1022 expressly states that the military will imprison anyone who is a member of al-Qaeda or “an associated force” that acts like al-Qaeda; and anyone who planned or carried out an attack, or attempted attack, against the U.S. 
  • Section 1022 continues that detaining American citizens is not required. “UNITED STATES CITIZENS — The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.”

The bottom line being that the government could have imprisoned anyone suspected of, or even associated with, terrorism. But on February 28, Obama issued a Presidential Directive announcing section 1022 would not apply to Americans.

This power was apparently much anticipated by Senator McCain because he’s now doing everything in his power to get the legislation enforced, including tying up defence appointments made by the president.

McCain pledged yesterday that until the Pentagon and the White House meet his demands to enforce certain provisions of the NDAA, including indefinite detention, he won’t participate in voting on nominees and will do all he can to see the process grinds to a halt.

The Senator even put his ire to paper and sent off a letter to Secretary of defence Leon Panetta referring to a series of bullet-pointed NDAA grievances, one-by-one.

The list is filled with concerns over force assessment and budgetary priorities, but in the second to last bullet-point McCain lashes out directly at Obama for undermining the indefinite detention clause in the 2012 NDAA.

From McCain’s letter to Panetta:

Following a lengthy and intense debate on provisions in the FY 2012 NDAA regarding detention in military custody of suspected terrorists, Congress and the Administration reached a bipartisan agreement that is reflected in Public Law 112-81 enacted on December 31, 2011. However, on February 28, 2012, the President issued a Presidential Policy Directive that effectively eviscerated major sections of that law, clearly contradicting the letter and spirit of the law.

McCain concludes his letter, drafted on Senate stationary from the Committee On Armed Forces, by saying he hopes his grievances are “simple misinterpretations of the law or inadvertent oversights, rather than willful disregard.”

He looks forward to working with Panetta to resolve the matters.

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