House Republicans Rethinking Indefinite Detention Law

Backlash Has Bill's Proponents Scrambling for Cover

Over the past decade, Congressmen and women in both parties have tried to bolster their national security bona fides by endorsing ever more draconian laws related to the treatment of “suspects.” The strategy served them well politically, until this year.

This year, Congress cheerfully pushed through the National Defense Authorization Act, which encouraged and in some cases mandated indefinite military detention without charges for “terror suspects.” What happened next surprised everyone: people got mad.

At a time when Congressmen are launching reelection campaigns, where they would normally be lauding their votes as proof they are “tough on terror,” they are being condemned at town hall meetings and scrambling to revise the law before their initial support for the NDAA can harm them in the election.

Changing it might not be so easy. The bill was hotly contested by President Obama in the first place: not on civil liberties grounds, of course, but under the belief that the president gets to do such detentions whenever he wants anyhow, and that Congressional efforts to codify “when and how” is stepping on the executive branch’s toes.

Obama issued signing statements ignoring a good chunk of the NDAA in the first place, and would likely fight even more fiercely against a “revision” law that seeks to limit the open-ended detention of American citizens.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.