The mainstream media has been virtually ignoring a new bit of Senate mischief initiated a month ago by the redoubtable duo John McCain and Joe Lieberman. It is called “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010.” The proposed law appears to have bipartisan support though it is not clear if it has enough votes to pass into law and the position of the Obama Administration regarding it has not been declared, though the president has not been shy about expanding presidential authority up until now.
The act would make it possible for the US military to seize and imprison anyone anywhere in the world, including American citizens, on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. This includes “material support” which is not otherwise defined. The imprisonment would be under the authority of the president as commander in chief. McCain and Lieberman’s bill defines the detainees as “unprivileged enemy belligerents,” which is apparently what the Obama justice department prefers rather than the Bush and Cheney designation “unlawful enemy combatants.” The bill’s language identifies and includes not only actual terrorists but also individuals of “potential intelligence value” and other categories “as the president considers appropriate.” Part of the bill, “Detention Without Trial of Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents,” authorizes suspects to “be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” It would create a new category of prisoner for whom there will be no charges, no trial, and no civilian judicial review. It would be a de facto suspension of the US Bill of Rights.