WASHINGTON - A new bill that grants the US military the right to arrest and indefinitely detain Americans on terror suspicions without charge is provoking a storm of controversy in the United States.It is deeply troubling that the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) became law with the detention provisions intact, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
We believe it is unconstitutional for our military to become a police force that would hold American citizens indefinitely without the right to trial or even to hear the charges brought against them.
President Barack Obama signed the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, into law on Saturday, December 31.
It grants the military a greater authority to detain and interrogate US citizens and non-citizens and hold them without charge.Permitting indefinite detention of American citizens without trial shatters a cornerstone of our democracy the right of the individual to due process, CAIR said.
Every elected official who participated in the formation and passage of this law has violated their oath to support and defend the Constitution.
Though Obama had initially threatened to veto the legislation, he issued a statement after signing it which cited some reservations.
I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists, Obama said.
I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.
The defense bill also contains a measure that would apply sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran in an effort to pressure Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program and would freeze $700 million in US aid to Pakistan.
Congress revised the bill to give the Obama administration six months to apply the sanctions if the White House determines they could disrupt the oil markets.
Despite Obama's reservations, CAIR stressed that the law will be seen as stain on our nation's history' that would not improve US security.
As the president noted in his signing statement, such unconstitutional detentions would do nothing to improve the security of the United States,' the US Muslim group said.
While it is encouraging to hear that the current administration will interpret the detention provisions in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law,' we have no assurances that future administrations will act in a similar manner.
This ill-conceived and un-American legislation will forever be seen as a stain on our nation's history one that will ultimately be viewed with embarrassment and shame.
Human rights advocates also denounced the measure as an expansion of military authority, comparing it to the 1950s, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy used demagogic and disputed tactics in an attempt to root out Communist activities.
By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said after Congress approved the bill, The Washington Post reported.
Last year, Obama signed into law a four-year extension of controversial anti-terror powers under Patriot Act.
The law had drawn fire for granting the government too much power and infringing on individual liberties.
Muslims and Arabs have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.