Sen. Leahy on the "un-American" detainee interrogation bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy points out just how extreme and dangerous are the powers of permanent detention to be bestowed on the president.

Published September 26, 2006 5:58PM (EDT)

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., recognizes how profoundly dangerous and -- as he rightly says -- "un-American" are the powers of indefinite detention to be bestowed on President Bush by the pending interrogation legislation. His whole statement (via Corrente), made before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, ought to be read in its entirety, but here is one of the critical excerpts:

"Today we are belatedly addressing the single most consequential provision of this much-discussed bill, a provision that can be found buried on page 81 of the proposed bill. This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals against whom the government has brought no charges and presented no evidence, without any recourse to justice whatsoever. That is un-American, and it is contrary to American interests.

"Going forward, the bill departs even more radically from our most fundamental values. It would permit the president to detain indefinitely -- even for life -- any alien, whether in the United States or abroad, whether a foreign resident or a lawful permanent resident, without any meaningful opportunity for the alien to challenge his detention. The administration would not even need to assert, much less prove, that the alien was an enemy combatant; it would suffice that the alien was "awaiting [a] determination" on that issue. In other words, the bill would tell the millions of legal immigrants living in America, participating in American families, working for American businesses, and paying American taxes, that our government may at any minute pick them up and detain them indefinitely without charge, and without any access to the courts or even to military tribunals, unless and until the government determines that they are not enemy combatants."

I doubt there is any bill enacted in recent history that explicitly vests such tyrannical powers in the president.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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