'Hysteria-busting' FAQ shows no-trial terrorist detention rules just as bad as you thought

Legal/security analyst maps out rights-violating new law, points out one hope for opponents


The 1,000-page document that funds the U.S. military to the tune of $662 billion and, incidentally, gives it the right (and sometimes obligation) to arrest and lock up without trial anyone suspected of terrorism even if they are U.S. citizens arrested within the U.S. is confusing according to legal and national-security blog Lawfare.

Lawfare co-founder Benjamin Wittes wrote what he calls an FAQ to the detention rules in the NDAA because, without a clear explanation of what the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its rules on indefinite detention actually say, it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion either the bill or its impact.

Wittes, a senior fellow in the Governance Studies division of The Brookings Institution, is clear in his explanations, which avoid hyperbole or even much of a projection of the impact of NDAA's arrest rules.

Unlimited detention seems like a peripheral topic for techies, or did until the same policies that allow the U.S. military and federal law enforcement agencies to do things that seem to violate the Constitution and Bill of Rights also allowed them to invade the privacy of Americans at home, by demanding cell-phone records, GPS data, Internet activity logs and, most alarmingly, chargehackers and Internet trolls with terrorism rather than simply being criminals or idiots.

While he appears to have gotten the facts straight and made a heroic attempt at objective analysis and definition, he falls off the beam on one issue:

He doesn't consider NDAA to have expanded the government's ability to arrest or detain terrorism suspects without trial.

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