In military detention you are subject to the whim of a commander, as Bradley Manning was during his year in Quantico, or Jose Padilla in his 3 1/2 years in the Navy brig at Goose Creek, SC. Even with every protection under the Constitution afforded to Troy Davis, despite seven out nine eyewitnesses recanting their testimony, justice did not prevail, showing that even a system with multiple recourse is only as good as the people running it.
The new law providing for military detention of American citizens passed the Senate last night in a 93- 7 vote, allowing for the military detention of American citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism. The language is so broad that it could include people sailing on humanitarian supply ships to Gaza, any street demonstrator who blocks traffic, or anyone accused of making a speech which provides "material support" to terrorism, such as Anwar Al-Awlaki. Every Democratic senator except Jeff Merkley, Tom Harkin, and Ron Wyden voted for the bill which contains the provision, S. 1867 the National Defense Authorization Act. That includes John Kerry, Dianne Feinstein, and Patrick Leahy.
The others who voted against are Thomas Coburn, [R], Mike Lee [R], Rand Paul [R], and Bernie Sanders [I].
USA Today reports of the bill:
"The legislation also would deny suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation's borders, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein had sought an exception to the provision for U.S. citizens, but her effort failed, 55-45."
Senior Legislative Counsel for the national ACLU, Chris Anders, said yesterday of the final bill that passed:
"The bill is an historic threat to American citizens and others because it expands and makes permanent the authority of the president to order the military to imprison without charge or trial American citizens," said Christopher Anders, ACLU senior legislative counsel."
In a transparent attempt seemingly calculated to provide some measure of deniability, numerous amendments were offered to take out the military detention provisions, which all failed, then those who voted to take out the provisions turned around and passed the bill anyway. Although the bill now goes to House-Senate conference committee, Anders notes:
"Given that the House version of the legislation is already very troubling, the final House-Senate negotiated bill will likely be even worse."
In military detention it is not up to a judge, even a conservative one, to determine who belongs there and who doesn't, or what constitutes support for terrorism. It is up to a military commander who can override even the determinations of his own experts, legal or otherwise. In the case of another military detainee, Bradley Manning was forced into isolation for well over a year, in a 6 foot by 12 foot cell with no windows, except a small one in the door to his cell leading to a hall and only artificial light.
Under a punitive "prevention of injury" watch ordered by the base commander he was forbidden from exercising in his cell, and allowed out only one hour a day to walk figure eights in another room under shackles and chains. Manning's friend David House reported to MSNBC that after 8 months in solitary, his friend had the appearance of being "catatonic" and that he had a difficult time having a "meaningful conversation" with Manning.
Manning was also given what the military said were "anti-depressants" in order to, incredibly, counter the effects of his isolation.
Manning's attorney David Coombs wrote in March of this year:
"Brig forensic psychiatrists have consistently maintained that there is no mental health justification for the POI Watch imposed on PFC Manning...The conditions of POI Watch require only psychiatric input, but ultimately remain the decision of the commander."
In addition to the warnings of the ACLU, the intent of the provisions to include American citizens as subject to indefinite military detention has been clearly stated so that no senator can possibly misunderstand. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the sponsors of the provisions, told his colleagues in a speech on the Senate floor:
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