Despite protests that the legislation will negate centuries old rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Senate Thursday passed a bill authorizing the arrest and imprisonment without charge or trial of terrorism suspects, including American citizens, anywhere in the world. The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also authorizes $662 billion in military spending. It has been sent to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it, perhaps as early as today (Friday). Obama had threatened to veto earlier versions of bill, but on Wednesday the White House announced the President was satisfied by amendments made by a House-Senate conference committee granting the President greater discretion in determining what terror suspects to hold in military confinement.
"By withdrawing his threat to veto the NDAA, President Obama has abandoned yet another principled position with little or nothing to show for it," said Tom Parker, policy director for Amnesty International USA said. "Amnesty International is appalled -— but regrettably not surprised."
Ironically, the Senate passed the law on December 15, the date of the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Only 13 Senators voted against the bill, while 86 voted for it, including some who argued that the constitutional guarantees would not be vitiated.
A former member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) with suspected ties to a 1996 terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S servicemen was part of an Iraqi government delegation visiting the White House December 12. The meeting coincided with President Obama’s announcement of the official end of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. According to the Washington Times, Hadi Farhan al-Amiri, Transportation Minister in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “was part of the delegation that visited the White House to discuss Iraq’s future and Iran’s influence there, among other topics.”
The Times recalled that al-Amiri was a commander in the Revolutionary Guard’s Badr Corps, the leading edge of that nation’s military effort against Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein, and remained in that theatre throughout the late 1980s and ’90s. “The FBI linked the Revolutionary Guard to the attack on the Khobar Towers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on June 25, 1996,” reported the Times. “Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed by a bomb blast at the towers, which were housing American military personnel.”
Are African elephants an endangered species? Like so many questions, the answer depends on who’s giving it. Villagers in northern Uganda whose food the animals devour would likely call them an endangerment — or worse. “[After] I found the elephants eating my crops in the garden, I started banging an empty jerry can to scare them but one of the big elephants charged at me. I was lucky because I ran in between the trees and the elephant stopped. I gave up my garden of millet and rice,” said Mateo Ojok. He’s one of the “internally displaced persons (IDPs) … struggling to resettle because persistent elephant incursions into their fields are threatening their livelihoods, and sometimes, their lives.” Mr. Ojok added, “[Life in] this place is a struggle between the elephants and human beings. The elephants are giving us a hard time, they are really aggressive.”
So aggressive, in fact that “the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates … the annual cost of elephant raids to crops in Africa” at “US$60 in Uganda … per affected farmer.” That’s a sizable chunk of wealth in a country where the “gross national income per capita” for 2009 was $511.9 in “current US [dollars].”
On November 17, four convicted terrorists appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, to review the alleged violation of their constitutionally guaranteed due process rights on the part of the government of the United States. The four co-petitioners are Omar Rezaq, Ibrahim Elgabrowny, El-Sayyid Nosair, and Mohammed Salameh. While these names may not sound familiar, their deeds are infamous. A brief “rap sheet” for each follows.
Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq is the sole surviving hijacker of EgyptAir Flight 648. He was one of three members of the militant Palestinian organization Abu Nidal (named for the founder of Fatah, Abu Nidal) who participated in the hijacking of the plane in 1985. The other two hijackers were gunned down either by armed sky marshals or by Egyptian commandos who stormed onto the airplane. On July 19, 1996, a federal district judge sentenced Rezaq to life imprisonment for his role in the hijacking.
Amidst all of the controversy surrounding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Obama administration attempted to paint itself as an oppositional force against the bill, threatening to veto it if it passed. Now, however, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), co-author of the bill, has said that the administration in fact heavily lobbied to have removed from the bill language that would have protected American citizens from some of the bill’s provisions, such as indefinite detention without trial. According to Levin, who is Chairman of the Armed Services Committee:
The White House unveiled its new domestic terror-war strategy, announcing that the federal government would be involving local schools and community-based officials in its efforts to identify and neutralize extremists. Critics in Congress blasted the Obama administration for omitting any mention of radical Islam, but there has been very little criticism so far of involving school children in the so-called “war.”
The new plan was outlined in a 23-page document posted on the White House website entitled "Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States." Among the cabinet departments involved in deliberations and approval of the strategy were the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Commerce, and more.
According to a report published Thursday by the Associated Press (AP), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operated a secret prison in Romania. The AP teamed with German investigative reporters from the public television network ARD, and the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in conducting the investigation that allegedly discovered the so-called black site.
Residents of western Michigan need fear terrorists no more. Courtesy of a Homeland Security grant, 13 counties are now prepared to thwart any and all terrorist attacks with… snow-cone machines. According to the Greenville Daily News, the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC), “a federal- and state-designated agency responsible for managing and administrating the homeland security program in Montcalm County and 12 other counties[,] … recently purchased and transferred homeland security equipment to these counties — including 13 snow cone machines at a total cost of $11,700.” (WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids puts the price tag at a mere $6,200.) WMSRDC got the money for the machines and other equipment via a grant from the Michigan Homeland Security Program.
In the midst of allegations of police brutality and police aggression at the OWS protests, the U.S. Senate approved a bill that is said to “explicitly create a police state”: the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA, passed by a vote of 93 to 7, virtually stated that all of the United States may be considered a battlefield, and therefore the American military is permitted to indefinitely detain any American perceived to be a threat.
Several amendments were proposed by both Democrats and Republican Senators, which would have deleted the dangerous provisions that would allow the indefinite detention of American citizens. While most of those amendments were overwhelming voted down, a single compromise amendment was passed that was intended to quell fears that American citizens may be imprisoned indefinitely, though skeptics remain uncomfortable with the final outcome.