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Senate Passes Defense Authorization Bill

It's official. The Senate, by a vote of 86-13, has passed the $662 billion NDAA, which was passed by the House yesterday.

The bill now goes to President Obama to sign, and his advisers are no longer recommending a veto over the detainee provisions.

You can read the detainee provisions here.

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Senate to Consider Detainee Legislative Amendments Tomorrow

There's still time to contact your Senator and ask to vote for the Mark Udall Amendment to the Defense Authorization Act. (Background here.)

After passing two of the many Amendments (Menendez amend #1414 and Leahy Leahy amend #1072 )and confirming Christopher Droney as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Senate recessed until tomorrow.

Sen. Mark Udall will make a floor statement tomorrow on the Amendment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a procedural vote on the Defense Bill for sometime Wednesday.

Today, FBI Director Robert Mueller sent a letter to the Senate objecting to the detainee provisions in the bill.

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The Defense Authorization Bill : Only Hope is the Udall Amendment

Unfortunately, the Senate is scheduled to vote Monday or Tuesday on the 2012 Defense Authorization bill with the horrible detainee provisions. The bill is a primer for indefinite military detention until the end of time, considering it encompasses more than al Qaida and the war on terror is endless. It gives the military total control over detainees.

Sen. Levin and McCain are pushing for a vote on new Amendments for Monday evening. The bill is S. 1867, introduced on Nov. 15. You can read or skim the 682 pages here. The detainee matters are in Subtitle D, starting on page 359 with Section 1031. They go through page 378 and Section 1037. The Congressional Record for Nov. 18 has the most recent events, including a statement by Sen. Levin as to why he thinks the Levin/McCain Amendment is more than fair and the Administration's objections are unfounded.

There are dozens of pending amendments, including the most important one by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who explains his amendment here [More...]

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House Passes Funding Bill With World-Wide War and Detention Authority

Yesterday, the House passed its version of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (available here.) The roll call vote is here. The bill, which is a renewal of the 2001 authority for war, expands the authority world-wide. The bill passed by a vote of 322-96 and contains a $553 billion Pentagon base budget and $119 billion for overseas contingency operations.

It also blocks federal criminal trials of suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens. An amendment to strike the worldwide war provision failed. Obama has promised to veto the bill due to the world-wide war authority provision.

The bill also delays implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and provides that those considered for indefinite detention at Guantanamo may not be represented by legal counsel, only a military representative. It also prohibits the Guantanamo detainees from receiving family visits. [More...]

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House Bill Contains Provision to Investigate Lawyers for Detainees

The House Armed Services Committee defense bill that will soon be considered by the full House contains a provision to investigate lawyers for detainees for misconduct:

The provision would require the Pentagon inspector general to investigate instances in which there was “reasonable suspicion” that lawyers for detainees violated a Pentagon policy, generated “any material risk” to a member of the armed forces, violated a law under the inspector general’s exclusive jurisdiction, or otherwise “interfered with the operations” of the military prison at Guantánamo.

The inspector general would be required to report back to Congress within 90 days after the provision became law about any steps the Pentagon had taken in response to such conduct by either civilian or military lawyers.

Would the Democrats be so knuckle-headed as to pass it? Would Obama sign the bill into law if it passed or veto it? [More...]

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DC Circuit Appeals Court Upholds Denial of Yemini Detainee's Habeas Petition

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the denial of a habeas petition by a Yemeni detainee, held since 2002. The case is Al-Bihani v. Obama (Circuit docket 09-5051). The opinion is here. Al-Bihani was a cook who went from Saudi Arabia, through Pakistan, to Afghanistan to help the Taliban fight the Northern Alliance. Along the way, he stayed at guest houses he says were Taliban-affiliated and the Government says were al-Qaeda affiliated

He accompanied and cooked for a paramilitary group allied with the Taliban, known as the 55th Arab Brigade, which the Court says included Al Qaeda members. After the U.S. entered the war in Afghanistan, the group was forced to retreat and surrendered to the Northern Alliance. The Northern Alliance held him until 2002 then turned him over to U.S. forces who sent him to Guantanamo.

ScotusBlog dissects the opinion and what it may mean for other detainees. Essentially, it holds that the President's power to detain non-U.S. citizens is not limited by international law, including the law of war. [More...]

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Obama to Halt Detainee Transfers to Yemen

And so it begins. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today said they are halting the transfer of cleared detainees to Yemen:

"One of the very first things Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula used as a tool was Gitmo," Gibbs said. "We're not going to make transfers to a country like Yemen that they're not capable of handling (the detainees). While we remain committed to closing the detention facility, the determination has been made that right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea."

This is unacceptable. Many of these men have been held 9 years, without charges. Many should never have been arrested in the first place. Sending them to Illinois for more indefinite detention is not only unfair to them, it will engender further animosity towards the U.S. and further devalue our core values and principles. [More...]

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Obama May Create New Interrogation Unit for Detainees

The Wall St. Journal reports today that President Obama may be considering a big change in the way the U.S. interrogates high-value detainees.

The Obama administration is considering overhauling the way terror suspects are interrogated by creating a small team of professionals drawn from across the government, according to people familiar with a proposal that will be submitted to the White House.

The new unit, comprising members of spy services and law-enforcement agencies, would be used for so-called high-value detainees, they said. In a switch from Bush-era efforts, it wouldn't be run by the Central Intelligence Agency, though who might be in charge isn't specified.

Among the expected changes: [More...]

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Palau Agrees to Take Up to 13 Uighurs From Gitmo

Props to Palau, for tentatively agreeing to take up to 13 of the Chinese Uighur muslims from Guantanamo.

It is one of the world's smallest countries, with about 20,000 people scattered over islands of lush tropical jungle. Most work in tourism, construction and farming.

China is not happy. [More...]

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Just Say No To Preventive Detention

I can't believe people are even debating this.

Our system of justice and the principles this country was founded upon do not allow the Government to hold people indefinitely without the filing of criminal charges.

If they did something illegal, charge them and try them. If they are acquitted, release them.

If there isn't enough admissible evidence to charge them, they get released and sent home. [More...]

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Torture Takeaway: It's Not Effective

As Big Tent Democrat and the New York Times noted, Marcy Wheeler of Empty Wheel broke the story of the number of times the C.I.A. used waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in a month. That's an average of 6 times a day.

Doesn't this show the ineffectiveness of the technique? Particularly when it was only one of a number of coercive techniques that were used in tandem? (Others, according to the May 30, 2005 memo were facial and abdominal slapping,walling, sleep deprivation through shackling, nudity coupled with adult diapers.) Marcy has more on this here. [More...]

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CIA Secret Overseas Prisons to Close, Contractors' Role Ended

The C.I.A. today announced the closure of overseas CIA prisons for detainees. Private contractors will no longer be involved in interrogating prisoners.

The C.I.A. has never revealed the location of its overseas facilities, but intelligence officials, aviation records and news reports have placed them in Afghanistan, Thailand, Poland, Romania and Jordan, among other countries.

More from CIA Chief Leon Pannetta's statement: [More...]

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Secret Red Cross Report Released on Abuse of Detainees

A February, 2007 Red Cross report on the treatment of the 14 high-value detainees held in secret CIA prisons before being transferred to Guantanamo has been released. It's available here (pdf). The report in encrypted so I can't cut and paste excerpts, but the Washington Post has this description of its findings.

Medical officers who oversaw interrogations of terrorism suspects in CIA secret prisons committed gross violations of medical ethics and in some cases essentially participated in torture, according a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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Report: Generals Knew About Guantanamo Torture


A new report from the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research:

Today Seton Hall Law delivered a report establishing that military officials at the highest levels were aware of the abusive interrogation techniques employed at the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO), and misled Congress during testimony. In addition, FBI personnel reported that the information obtained from inhumane interrogations was unreliable.

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No Change From Obama on Indefinite Detention

The Obama Administration has blown its first chance to signal change from the Bush Administration in the treatment of detainees.

In a case brought by four detainees at Guantanamo alleging torture (details of Rasul v. Rumsfeld here,) the Obama Justice Department has filed a brief arguing that detainees have no constitutional rights and that, even if they did, the Administration officials are immune from liability

In another Guantanamo case, the Justice Department argues in a brief (pdf)that the U.S. has the right to indefinitely hold detainees. The Attorney General's press release is here.

As a smokescreen, the DOJ doesn't use the word "enemy combatent." No one's buying that by not using the term, Obama's taking a different position from Bush.

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