Tuesday, March 08, 2011

House Armed Services Committee putting on magic show

Just moments from now, the House Armed Services Committee will begin a press conference to discuss proposed legislation addressing "America’s Terrorist Detention and Prosecution Policies."

The announcement issued by the HASC's chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) says,

The comprehensive legislation, among other things, would affirm the use of military force against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and affiliated terrorist networks; create certain restrictions which would make it tougher for detainees to return to the battlefield or share information with other terrorists or malign actors; and would permanently block funding for the creation or renovation of any facility in the continental United States to house detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay.

That's three rather ugly things all bundled into one piece of legislation -- nasty little rabbits all stuffed together in a magician's hat. With a wave of his wand and a tap on the brim, Rep. McKeon will call them something else and insist we don't see a sleight of hand.

First, the affirmation of the use of military force is a reiteration of the original Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, under which the Defense Department has not only been chasing terrorists here and abroad but under which the U.S. continues its occupation of Afghanistan. Those who do not believe we should continue expending resources at the same pace in Afghanistan will not want to extend carte blanche without limitations.

Second, the "certain restrictions which would make it tougher for detainees to return to the battlefield or share information" means at least two things will be codified: indefinite detention including detention without charges, and continued expansion of the government's ability to intercept communications which may or may not be terrorism related in an effort to sort terrorist from not-terrorist communications.

Thirdly, the wording regarding blocking of funding only mentions those detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay; it does not mention detainees still held in any other location, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, other locations across north Africa and offshore on any vessel. It's been pointed out that several trial balloons have been launched regarding the funding of detention facilities within the U.S., but not for the purposes of housing any detainees at GTMO, and at least one of those targeted facilities is in Rep. Buck McKeon's backyard.

The Department of Justice has also been doing the Defense Department's dirty work proving that military facilities can be used for bulk detentions, making the line between DOJ and DOD very fuzzy. In other words, funding for detention facilities in the U.S. might not come from the DOD but the DOJ's budget -- and the DOJ and DOD would work together cooperatively, just as they did on the recent roundup and detention of 100-plus members of organized crime who have been held in the brig at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, New York.

It might be time to draft some fax missives to the Democratic members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to push back at this deceptive nonsense.

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