There is a bill winding its way through the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives that would grant the president, this one and any to follow, the unrestricted ability to wage war against any country or person, at any time, under the banner of the war on terror.
And, unsurprisingly, our very own Doug Lamborn is a co-sponsor.
To ensure passage, language from the Detainee Security Act has been tucked into H.R. 1540, the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Bill.
If left intact, this language would extend the war on terror, which is defined as "an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces," by allowing the president to authorize military action against any nation, organization or person who substantially supports "forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person."
Summary: If the president deems that you have engaged in hostilities against the U.S., or have supported those hostilities, whether you are a person or country, he can wage war against you.
Further, the bill would allow the president to "detain belligerents ... until the termination of hostilities."
House Democrats are alarmed that "by declaring a global war against nameless individuals, organizations, and nations "associated" with the Taliban and al Qaeda, as well as those playing a supporting role in their efforts, the Detainee Security Act would appear to grant the President near unfettered authority to initiate military action around the world without further congressional approval."
And there is reason for concern. Just last night, CBS' 60 Minutes ran a segment in which Lara Logan interviewed a number of military and intelligence experts, including a former Afghani spy, who delivered a nearly identical message: To win the war against al Qaeda, we must become "more aggressive with Pakistan."
Further, the Democrats point out that the bill will require all terrorism suspects to be held in military custody, outside of civilian legal jurisdiction, and will also make Guantanamo permanent, despite Obama's campaign-trail promise to shutter the prison.
Here is the full text of the letter submitted by 33 House Democrats:
Dear Chairman McKeon:
We are writing concerning certain troubling provisions in H.R. 968, the Detainee Security Act of 2011, which we understand are likely to be considered as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of the Fiscal Year of 2012. Whatever one thinks about the merits of the Detainee Security Act, it is a serious enough departure from current counterterrorism policy and practice to merit consideration apart from the NDAA. Accordingly, we request that you use your chairmanship in the House Armed Services Committee to immediately hold hearings so that the public can further consider the various provisions within the Detainee Security Act.
Among the many troubling aspects of the Detainee Security Act are provisions that expand the war against terrorist organizations on a global basis. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2001 was widely thought to provide authorization for the war in Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda, the Taliban, and others responsible for the 9/11 attacks. That war has dragged on for almost ten years, and after the demise of Osama Bin Laden, as the United States prepares for withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Detainee Security Act purports to expand the "armed conflict" against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and "associated forces" without limit. By declaring a global war against nameless individuals, organizations, and nations "associated" with the Taliban and al Qaeda, as well as those playing a supporting role in their efforts, the Detainee Security Act would appear to grant the President near unfettered authority to initiate military action around the world without further congressional approval. Such authority must not be ceded to the President without careful deliberation from Congress.
The Detainee Security Act also unwisely requires that all terrorism suspects eligible for detention under the AUMF be held exclusively in military custody pending further disposition. The practical effect of this provision will be to undermine the ability of the FBI and local law enforcement to participate in counterterrorism operations, which could have serious negative impacts on national security. Moreover, in a recent hearing in the House Armed Services Committee, Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson noted that, rather than help clarify detention authority, the military custody provision in the Detainee Security Act would create serious litigation risk for the government.
The Detainee Security Act contains several additional troublesome provisions that relate to Guantanamo. The Detainee Security Act in effect requires that terrorism suspects be tried in military commissions, thereby cutting out Article III federal courts from conducting terrorism trials. This is unwise, as Article III federal courts have convicted over 400 individuals of terrorism-related offenses since 9/11. Military commissions, mired by legal problems and controversy, have convicted only six. The Detainee Security Act would also make permanent current transfer restrictions on Guantanamo detainees, further undermining the ability of the President to close the offshore detention facility. In our view, restricting the President in this way is unnecessary to promote a robust national security that keeps the American people safe.
Whatever one thinks of these various proposals in the Detainee Security Act, it is clear that they will have serious consequences and should be examined extensively. We therefore request that you use your chairmanship to immediately call hearings on Detainee Security Act so that the American people have an opportunity to consider the serious impacts that this legislation could have on our national security.
Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Michael Honda (D-Calif.), Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), George Miller (D-Calif.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), David Price (D-N.C.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Fortney “Pete” Stark (D-Calif.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and David Wu (D-Ore.).