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Senators Feinstein, Lee, and Paul introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act today that would prevent the president or executive branch agencies from indefinitely detaining U.S. citizens without charges or trial. It's not a complete prohibition: Congress explicitly reserves the right to authorize such detentions in the future.

What's remarkable is that, so far, the only other sponsors listed so far are senators Coons, Collins, Lautenberg, Gillibrand, and Kirk. That's a total of a mere 8 senators out of 100 who want to be on the record as opposing indefinite military detention for U.S. citizens, at least as of when the web page was last updated. The sponsor list is here:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:SP03018:

You can find the text of the amendment here (it's also below) if you click here and follow the links:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/R?r112:FLD001:S56978

Here are Sen. Paul's remarks, highlighting the flexible definition of being dubbed a terrorist sympathizer, and noting that the right of a trial by jury is an ancient one:
http://paul.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=641

Here's a video of Sen. Lee on the floor:
Protecting the Right to a Trial by Jury

And here's what may be the most poorly-argued +The Wall Street Journal editorial in recent memory (among other errors, it blames this amendment on libertarians, which Dianne Feinstein most definitely isn't, and I'm not sure what "strict rules on surveillance" it's referring to):
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324205404578147543927778924.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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   SEC. 1032. PROHIBITION ON THE INDEFINITE DETENTION OF CITIZENS AND LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENTS.

    Section 4001 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

    (1) by redesignating subsection (b) as subsection (c); and

    (2) by inserting after subsection (a) the following:

    ``(b)(1) An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.

    ``(2) Paragraph (1) applies to an authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority enacted before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2013.

    ``(3) Paragraph (1) shall not be construed to authorize the detention of a citizen of the United States, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, or any other person who is apprehended in the United States.''.

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11 comments
 
Two of these are paranoid kooks... The third one seems to be doing it for exactly the wrong reason -- to allow future authorization. Well, Congress already have that right and the President does not have an unlimited right to detain. So how does this amendment change the status quo? Giving the paranoiacs more fiber for their diet? This is not so much a new law as a feel-good gesture to the militias and Obama haters. Because, you know, only Democratic Presidents would consider detaining US citizens without trial...
 
I would challenge that even Congress has the legitimate authority to authorize the indefinite detention of any American without charge and conviction of an actual crime.  Even then there are prohibitions against unreasonable punishment.
 
I'm not at all surprised that there is only a short list of sponsors... Remember the law that they managed to pass despite the White House objections, giving authorizations for unnecessary intrusions. Obama gave a signing statement disclaiming these capacities. But if you read Tea Party daily propaganda emails, it was an Obama powergrab. We are not dealing with rational people in the Senate. At one time, Senate used to be the guardians against villagers with pitchforks from the House. With the self-immolation of the GOP, we now have the villagers storming the Senate too. I would much rather see more protections against unnecessary intrusions into people's privacy, including serious scale-down of the Patriot Act than this kind of paranoid nonsense. Lee and Paul have the excuse that they were not around in the Senate when Bush was in the White House. But can we seriously entertain the possibility that they would have tried to pass the same bill on a Republican President's watch? I doubt it very much.
 
We do have constitutional protections against search and seizure... We have some delegation of emergency powers to the executive branch. But I don't see mere detention as "cruel and unusual punishment", unless it's accompanied by other actions.
 
Throw someone in solitary for a year and tell me that is not cruel. It is, however, not particularly unusual.
 
Indefinite detention without charge or subsequent guilt through a jury of peers is most definitely cruel and unusual.  It deprives one of all basic liberties.
 
Amendment 5:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury. ..

Amendment 6:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment 9:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
 
+victor steinbok I'm not sure that you can characterize senators Feinstein, Coons, Collins, Lautenberg, Gillibrand, and Kirk as tea party loyalists. First, lots of policy areas enjoy left-right alliances, and this is one of them. Second, even if they all slept in Ayn Rand pajamas, I'm not sure how it necessarily follows that their amendment is "paranoid nonsense." I'd rather see a discussion of the actual law and policy, not uninteresting name-calling about "paranoiacs."
 
"Obama gave a signing statement disclaiming these capacities." Indeed he did. And then when a judge ruled to suspend his right to some of those capabilities, the administration quickly found an appeals court that would restore them by overruling the judge. So much for the worthless signing statement. If you don't even try to provide a fair listing of the facts, Victor Steinbok, and you're just going to attempt shoot-from-the-hip character assassination, why should we take you at all seriously?
 
+Gary McGath has a better summary. The reason I called the amendment paranoid is because it offers no protections that the Constitution does not already provide. We don't need an amendment that is little more than "the sense of the Senate" on a constitutional issue. +Declan McCullagh -- I hold you in the highest regard and rarely disagree with you, but a I don't see why there should be any fuss over a symbolic amendment
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