‘Life imprisonment. Think about that for a minute.’


Unless you were watching C-Span2 Tuesday, you may not have noticed that the Senate voted to keep a controversial provision in the defense spending bill that would allow indefinite detention of any terrorism suspect, including American citizens.

This would make it possible for the government to keep you locked up for the rest of your life without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. So much for the idea that everyone deserves their day in court.

Supporters of the provision argue that such extraordinary measures are necessary in the fight against terrorism. But as Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) countered on the floor of the Senate, it’s a fight the U.S. appears to be winning just fine without doing away with due process:

[W]hat we are talking about here is that Americans could be subjected to life imprisonment. Think about that for a minute. Life imprisonment. Without ever being charged, tried, or convicted of a crime. Without ever having an opportunity to prove your innocence to a judge or a jury of your peers. And without the government ever having to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that denigrates the very foundations of this country.

This is one of the few battles on Capitol Hill that hasn’t been dividing along sharp partisan lines. Sixteen Democrats voted for indefinite detention. But there’s one Democrat who’s threatening to have the final vote. President Obama has said he will veto the entire defense spending bill if the one that reaches his desk still has the detainee provision in it.

Civil Rights and Barack Obama

'Life imprisonment. Think about that for a minute.'