Thursday’s Senate Vote Does Nothing to Settle Detainee Debate

Huge Margin of Victory, But What Actually Won?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D – CA) amendment to the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) aimed at settling the question of military detention of American citizens on American soil once and for all. It passed 67-29, a wide margin indeed given how many Senators are openly fine with the idea of the military capturing Americans at will.

And therein lies the problem. Though nominally designed to “limit” the military’s ability to detain Americans, the language was so muddled and vague that many of detention’s loudest advocates voted for it, and insist it does the exact opposite.

Fearing a presidential veto, the new amendment contains so many loopholes that some are arguing that it actually empowers the military to do even more detention. In the end, Senators on both sides seem to be fine with the amendment, and content to spin it as doing what they want it to do.

Win-win for the Senate and the Obama Administration, because if the Senate can’t even agree what it is they actually passed, they certainly aren’t going to fault the administration for their own interpretation, which will of course mean even more power for unilateral detention by the executive branch. Everyone wins, except the detainees.

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.