American Citizens on U.S. Soil May be Indefinitely Detained, Sent to Guantanamo or Assassinated

U.S. Says Americans Are MILITARY Targets in the War on Terror … And Says that Only the White House – and Not the Courts – Gets to Decide Who Is a Legitimate Target

As everyone realizes by now, Congress’ push for indefinite detention includes American citizens on American soil. As Huffington post notes:

The debate also has left many Americans scratching their heads as to whether Congress is actually attempting to authorize the indefinite detention of Americans by the military without charges. But proponents — led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — say that is exactly what the war on terror requires. They argued that the bill simply codifies precedents set by the Supreme Court and removes uncertainty, which they said would better protect the country.

Here is John McCain justifying sending Americans to Guantanamo:

And see this.

(As Emptywheel and Glenn Greenwald note, the White House has believed for many years that it possessed the power to indefinitely detain Americans. See this, this, this, and this.)

But that’s not all.

The government can also kill American citizens. For more than a year and a half, the Obama administration has said it could target American citizens for assassination without any trial or due process.

But now, as shown by the debates surrounding indefinite detention, the government is saying that America itself is a battlefield.

AP notes today:

U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.


The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.

Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

The courts in habeas cases, such as those involving whether a detainee should be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, make the determination of who can be considered an enemy combatant.

You might assume – in a vacuum – that this might be okay (even though it trashes the Constitution, the separation of military and police actions, and the division between internal and external affairs).

But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food. And see this.

And it is problematic in a period in which FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”, and even former Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – admitst hat he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

And it is counter-productive in an age when the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increase the risk of terrorism.

And it is insane in a time of perpetual war. See this, this, this and this.

And when the “War on Terror” in the Middle East and North Africa which is being used to justify the attack on Americans was planned long before 9/11.

And when Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And 9/11 was entirely foreseeable, but wasn’t stopped.   Indeed, no one in Washington even wants to hear how 9/11 happened, even though that is necessary to stop future terrorist attacks.  And the military has bombed a bunch of oil-rich countries when it could have instead taken out Bin Laden years ago.

As I noted in March:

The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

  • If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain you indefinitely until the war is over
  • But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security

See how that works?

And – given that U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants – it is unlikely that the government would ever admit that an American citizen it assassinated was an innocent civilian who has nothing at all to do with terrorism.

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