On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill 61 to 37 to require the U.S. Military to take control of all suspected terrorist arrested overseas and now, in the United States. The bill also allows the Military to hold detainees in Military custody indefinitely, and without the guarantee of a trial.
Now I know that Guantanamo Bay concerns dramatically died down a few years ago, but this new bill definitely raises some worries. First, yes, we are at war and the treatment of suspected terrorists is murkier. However, there remain clear international laws , including but not limited to the Geneva Conventions on the Treatment of Prisoners, that stipulate how a prisoner is meant to be treated. Does the United States have the right to hold suspects for an unlimited amount of time and without a trial? My guess is that many lawyers and human rights activists would argue that these rules are inhumane and illegal. I would argue that treating suspects this way in the United States could elicit similar treatment overseas of American prisoners, and the U.S. would not longer have an argument about reciprocal treatment on its side.
One of the more concerning parts of the bill is that the rules would also apply to suspects arrested on American soil. This has many results including that the Military would have the power to patrol American streets, and that people arrested in the United States could be subject to indefinitely detention. (Though the rules exempt American citizens, which to me raises even more concerns about the fair treatment of non-American suspects.)
All of these rules are allowed because the United States remains in a war-time, granting the Military significantly more power. However, it is now over a decade since the 9-11 attacks and almost a decade into our wars and continuing to expand the authority of the Military both overseas and in the U.S. seems almost superfluous and to me, gives the Military superfluous power. The bill has not been signed into action yet, and there are strong indications that President Obama will veto the bill, but such a progressive move in the Senate suggests that there remains strong support for a powerful Military presence, even in the legal system, both overseas and in the U.S.