Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, ever the stalwarts of freedom and civil liberties in the U.S., have offered up a bill concerning interrogation and the rights of detainees. I hope this is simply a campaign ploy on both their parts to shore up support amongst their right-wing constituencies.
I know McCain is facing a primary challenge this fall from someone even further right then he has become. Like I said, maybe this is just a political ploy and neither Senator expects this bill to pass.
That said, it would not surprise me in the least if this bill is a sincere attempt by these two bitter has-beens at making into law some truly despicable assaults on our Constitutional rights.
First, the law would negate the need for a Miranda warning to be given to those deemed “unprivileged enemy belligerents” before interrogation. Those that can fall under this term can include U.S. citizens and anyone who provides “material support” to terrorist organizations. Fairly broad definition.
Second, the law would prohibit any federal funds to be used to try “unprivileged enemy belligerents” in U.S. civilian courts. Whether an individual is “unprivileged” depends on certain factors and is determined by a “high-value detainee interrogation group”, with final approval by the President. This does not give the president too much power to detain, not at all.
Finally, the proposed law states that anyone deemed an “unprivileged enemy belligerent”, including a U.S. citizen, may be held indefinitely without trial for as long as hostilities ensue. That’s right. If by some mistake or accident you are accused and found to be an “unprivileged enemy belligerent”, this law would prevent you from having your day in court.
The issue (as if there was just one) is that many of these terms are so broadly defined, and to say that someone can be held indefinitely during hostilities is a scary prospect when you consider terrorism is not a war that can one day be declared over. I am not trying to be melodramatic or scare anyone, but this is bordering on 1984 type stuff.
I wish I were making this up. I wish I could say that I had no doubts about this bill never becoming law. I wish I could say this was nothing to worry about. But to much has happened in the last nine years to preclude me from being so sure.
Sullivan has his short take here.