Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that was designed to limit the president's arbitrary power to indefinitely detain American citizens. It passed the Senate, but was stripped today in a conference committee; see this Reason 24/7 report.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul quickly blamed his party's 2008 presidential nominee, blasting a "McCain-led NDAA conference committee" for the omission.
"The decision by the NDAA conference committee, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to strip the National Defense Authorization Act of the amendment that protects American citizens against indefinite detention now renders the entire NDAA unconstitutional," Sen. Paul said in a statement.
"When the government can arrest suspects without a warrant, hold them without trial, deny them access to counsel or admission of bail, we have shorn the Bill of Rights of its sanctity," the senator continued, noting that he voted against NDAA last year but supported the current version because of the Feinstein-Lee amendment.
The Caller sums up the argument that even with the amendment, the NDAA was still a civil liberties disaster:
Some civil libertarians worried that even Feinstein-Lee didn't go far enough, arguing that it left the door open for Congress to authorize indefinite detention.
The amendment declared, "An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention."
The American Civil Liberties Union warned that this "could be read to imply that there are no constitutional obstacles to Congress enacting a statute that would authorize the domestic military detention of any person in the United States."….
The NDAA is still trying to pretend it isn't blatantly unconstitutional:
In place of the Feinstein-Lee amendment is language stating that nothing in the NDAA "shall be construed to deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus or to deny any Constitutional rights."
The Supreme Court has already ruled that the writ of habeas corpus applies to all people.
"Habeas corpus is simply the beginning of due process," Paul insisted. "It is by no means the whole."
"Our Bill of Rights is not something that can be cherry-picked at legislators' convenience.
The Tenth Amendment Center made a very detailed case that even the Feinstein-Lee amendment did not blunt the horrors of the NDAA.
Reason.tv on the NDAA from last year: