A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
I meant: a long time ago, i.e. before 9/11, one could assume that an ideologically middle-of-the-roadish Democratic Senator would support the notion that those suspected of crimes, even of terrorist activity, had certain rights, including the right not to be detained indefinitely without trial.
No longer. The Senate yesterday kept in the defense authorization bill provisions on detention that Pres. Obama has threatened to veto. According to this NYT article:
Among the supporters of these provisions is Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. According to an Agence-France Presse article which I saw at Raw Story (and which I'm not linking to because my browser is having trouble with it), Levin denied the provisions would harm civil liberties (!) and (the NYT story also has this) cited a Supreme Court ruling that a so-called enemy combatant, even if a U.S. citizen, may be held indefinitely without trial (this must be Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, but that case also said the detainee had to have the right to challenge his designation as an unlawful combatant).
The most disputed provision would require the government to place into military custody any suspected member of Al Qaeda or one of its allies connected to a plot against the United States or its allies. The provision would exempt American citizens, but would otherwise extend to arrests on United States soil. The executive branch could issue a waiver and keep such a prisoner in the civilian system.
A related provision would create a federal statute saying the government has the legal authority to keep people suspected of terrorism in military custody, indefinitely and without trial. It contains no exception for American citizens. It is intended to bolster the authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which lawmakers enacted a decade ago.
Interestingly, the Pentagon itself is opposed to these provisions, according to the AFP piece, and the NYT says even some former Bush admin counterterrorism officials oppose them. Why is Levin supporting them? Why did he agree to their being part of the defense authorization package? He's not up for re-election until 2014, so immediate political considerations would not seem to be the answer. Has he always been this bad on these issues?