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Microscope Monday: Analysis of Massachusetts’ proposed Liberty Preservation Act, H. 1428

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The newly formed Massachusetts chapter of PANDA is bringing forward legislation on Beacon Hill to prevent the indefinite detention of American citizens under the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

The notion that the President should be allowed to detain US citizens without trial and without limit in time of war is a horrifying idea, but not a new one. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. President Roosevelt interned Americans of Japanese descent during the Second World War. It had seemed by the early 1990s that we were recognizing that shameful past and leaving it behind. Then came 9/11.

In the aftermath of the attack, 1,200 Muslim Americans were detained on `material witness warrants’ and interrogated, often without any evidence beyond their religion. American citizen and civilian Jose Padilla was arrested in 2002, committed to a military brig for three and a half years, tortured and possibly driven insane, before being transferred to civilian court and sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2008, for conspiracy to conspire to commit terrorist acts abroad.

The US government in these cases was exceptionally anxious to preserve authority to detain anyone for any length of time, provided they could be vaguely associated with al-Qaeda. Many people expected that President Obama would abandon such arguments and restore the rule of law. In reality, he has allowed the power of indefinite detention to pass into law. In 2012, he issued a signing statement to that year’s NDAA (it’s an annual thing), claiming that he would never use the power of indefinite detention. That’s not even legally binding on him, let alone on his successors. In 2013’s bill, even that signing statement has disappeared from view. Hence, people in many states have been proposing bills like the Liberty Preservation Act.

Over the fold, for the details of what the Liberty Preservation Act would do!

[Previous Microscope Mondays covered: the Free Speech Act; the Electronic Privacy Bill; the Drone Privacy Bill; and the infamous Act Updating the Wire Interception Law.]

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