One step forward, two steps back. During a recess appointment today, President Obama elevated Richard Cordray to the much-needed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray’s bona fides are pretty darn good, he’s served for both Republican and Democratic presidents, but congressional Republicans were blocking his nomination and refusing to cooperate with the idea of the CFPB in general—to the point of threatening a Constitutional lawsuit over the timing on the appointment.
Of course, none of this changes the fact that NDAA has already been signed into law, including the provision on indefinite military detention of American citizens that Obama double-pinkie swears he, personally, won’t use, but after that you’re kinda on your own.
And on that timely note, here is Thomas Drake’s acceptance speech from the 2011 Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award that he won. Drake turned whistleblower on the NSA, exposing (to quote The Real News) “massive NSA mismanagement and the agency’s use of a data collection program that was more costly, more threatening to American citizens’ privacy rights, and less effective than a readily-available alternative. For his actions, Drake’s house was raided, and he was subsequently charged under the Espionage Act, facing 35 years in prison.” His speech, titled “Is This the Country We Want to Keep?”, is a passionate plea against the pit of oligarchy and authoritarianism our country seems to be sliding into.
Voting 406-17, the House has closed off meetings about the Defense Bill reconciliation from public scrutiny. The big problem with this, as OpenCongress.org points out:
As you can read for yourself here, Section 1031, affirming the “authority of the armed forces of the United States to detain covered persons…” does not contain an exemption for U.S. citizens. Section 1032, mandating the military detention authority be used for terrorism suspects, does[.]“
Still, at least the Obama Administration has pledged opposition and threatened veto because of those provisions—right? Not so fast:
Contrary to popular perception, the Obama Administration is not strongly opposed to the provisions in the bills that would authorize indefinite military detentions for U.S. citizens. [...] [T]hey’ll take it and recommend that Congress passes clarifying legislation in the future, which, of course, will never happen. What they oppose is the provision that would mandate that power be used for all terrorism suspects besides U.S. citizens.
Section 1032, mandating the military detention authority be used for terrorism suspects [...] is the section that the Obama Administration says must be removed or else he will veto. The Administration has been stressing the need for flexibility in their powers to collect information and incapacitate terrorists, which likely means that they want to retain the power to detain suspects outside the context of war and the Geneva Convention protections that would apply. The secretive conference committee may still be able to overcome Obama’s veto threat while also codifying the power to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without having to charge them or give them a trial.”
This bears repeating—President Obama is not expressing strong opposition to indefinite military suspension.
Emphasis editor’s. Full text available here. In addition, we must mention how impressed with are with OpenCongress.Org, and how much we highly recommend them.
Who needs the Sixth Amendment? Not Americans, according to the U.S. Senate:
Here’s the best thing that can be said about the new detention powers the Senate has tucked into next year’s defense bill: They don’t force the military to detain American citizens indefinitely without a trial. They just let the military do that. And even though the leaders of the military and the spy community have said they want no such power, the Senate is poised to pass its bill as early as tonight.
[...] So despite the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a right to trial, the Senate bill would let the government lock up any citizen it swears is a terrorist, without the burden of proving its case to an independent judge, and for the lifespan of an amorphous war that conceivably will never end. And because the Senate is using the bill that authorizes funding for the military as its vehicle for this dramatic constitutional claim, it’s pretty likely to pass.
It would be one thing if the military was clamoring for the authority to become the nation’s jailer. But to the contrary: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opposes the maneuver. So does CIA Director David Petraeus, who usually commands deference from senators in both parties. Pretty much every security official has lined up against the Senate detention provisions, from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to FBI Director Robert Mueller, who worry that they’ll get in the way of FBI investigations of domestic terrorists.”
Courtesy of Wired magazine. Wired also goes on to note that President Obama has vowed to veto the bill.
(The bill passed the Senate 93-7 after this was written. Yes, you read that correctly: 93% of the Senate voted to outright ignore the 6th Amendment. —ed)