Congress reaches agreement on controversial defense bill

[JURIST] Leaders in the US House and Senate on Monday evening announced that they had reached an agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 [SB 1867, PDF] after making some modifications and adding text. The bill, which was passed by the Senate [JURIST report] in its original form earlier this month, included a controversial provision authorizing the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to detain individuals suspected of terrorism. President Barack Obama expressed concerns that some of the provisions in the bill were "legally questionable" in a Statement of Administrative Policy [text, PDF] released in November. Lawmakers said they hoped the additional text would dispel uncertainty and eliminate the threat of a presidential veto. Opponents of the bill fear it could be a threat to the constitutional liberties of US citizens. Supporters argue that the idea of an American citizen suspected of aiding al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] not getting due process is simply a lie. The White House has not issue a statement addressing the modifications to the bill.

The provision in question was approved [JURIST report] earlier this month by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) [official website] in a unanimous vote after disagreements regarding the provision had blocked their passage for months [CNN report]. The passage by the SASC came shortly after an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] report [PDF] claiming that the US is diminishing its "core values" [JURIST report] with regard to various counterterrorism measures put in place during the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks [JURIST backgrounder]. To support this contention, the report cites to US policies regarding indefinite military detention for terrorism suspects, the use of torture on terrorism suspects and enemy combatants, racial and religious profiling and domestic surveillance and wiretapping. The report posits that certain US policies run deeper than what is known by the American people, civil liberties continue to be violated in secret and that future violations are imminent. The ACLU acknowledged that the government has sought to cease certain questionable practices, citing President Barack Obama's directive to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison [JURIST news archive], but stated that other questionable practices remain "core elements of [US] national security strategy today."

 

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