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We Are All Really Bradley Manning Now: Senate Passes Military Detention for American Citizens.

By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 02 December 2011

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.  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 what someone in the government considers  "material support," or Tea Party members defending their Second Amendment rights.   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."

The roll-call here.

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:

“1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”

Military detention means Americans can now be treated no differently than Iraqi or Afghan detainees when they disappear behind the wall of the military chain-of-command.  It will not matter what you are guilty of or not guilty of.  And while soldiers in war-fighting units are for the most part honorable and patriotic, not all units are the same.   Americans suddenly branded with the "terrorist" label will be at the mercy of the Charles Graners and Lyndie Englands of the world, with no recourse to a lawyer, family, friends, or 230 years of carefully constructed jurisprudence.  And it will be indefinite, that is to say, possibly for life, again at the whim of the military and the Executive branch, and whoever is in it after Obama.  

All practices and measures are in place for whatever president promises to "fight terror" by going the next step.  Jane Mayer in the New Yorker writes of the treatment of terror detainees under the Bush administration:

"According to a report adopted in June by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees,” detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.” (Some personnel reportedly wore black clothes made from specially woven synthetic fabric that couldn’t be ripped or torn.) A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.  A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability."

Most amazing, this is all being met by the major media with a deafening silence.  NPR today spoke only of the jobs bill and devoted more time to Greece. The silence from PBS, NPR, and the commercial media is nearly as remarkable as the bill inching its way into law.  If you make donations to public broadcast, now might be the time to demand coverage or hit them where it hurts.  18 states allow for voter recall of US senators: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin.

The Founders stipulated that there were some rights which could not be taken away permanently, declared "inalienable."  One was the right to a trial by jury.  

"“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it...” - Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

Jefferson said:

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." - Thomas Jefferson

If we as a nation are going to do this, and as people go about their business shopping and singing Christmas carols, it appears we are, let's at least have our eyes wide open about what it means. Without ever having signed on the dotted line submitting to military justice or the UCMJ, permanently and for ever, the US Senate has made us all Bradley Manning.

"I don't know how the hell these people got into our army" - Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Abu Ghraib guards

They're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. - Republican Senator James Inhofe of Abu Ghraib prisoners, captured randomly and having never received trial.




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