As I have repeatedly described, I have very mixed feelings about the debate over Detainee Provisions set to pass the Senate tonight or tomorrow. I view it as a fight between advocates of martial law and advocates of relatively unchecked Presidential power. And as I’ve pointed out, the SASC compromise language actually limits Presidential power as it has been interpreted in a series of secret OLC opinions.
Which is why I’m no happier with Mark Udall’s amendment than I am with any of the other options here.
On its face, Udall’s amendment looks like a reset: A request that the Executive Branch describe precisely how it sees the military should be used in detention.
SEC. 1031. REVIEW OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.
(a) In General.–Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall, in consultation with appropriate officials in the Executive Office of the President, the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Attorney General, submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report setting forth the following:
(1) A statement of the position of the Executive Branch on the appropriate role for the Armed Forces of the United States in the detention and prosecution of covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)).
(2) A statement and assessment of the legal authority asserted by the Executive Branch for such detention and prosecution.
(3) A statement of any existing deficiencies or anticipated deficiencies in the legal authority for such detention and prosecution.
On one hand, this seems like a fair compromise. The Republicans want something in writing, Carl Levin claims SASC met just about every demand the Administration made in its attempt to codify the authority, but in response the President still issued a veto threat. So why not ask the President to provide language codifying the authority himself?