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Mother Jones: "The Nitty Gritty on the NDAA"

[font size=4]The Nitty Gritty on the NDAA[font size=2]

So what does the much discussed National Defense Authorization Act actually do?

This is one of several topics that I've been too fatigued to seriously dive into over the past week, and after getting about 90 minutes of sleep last night I'm sure not going to do it today. Luckily, Adam Serwer has a pretty good rundown here of what it does and doesn't do. It's worth a read, especially if you're confused about all the competing claims made about it as it wound its way through the sausage factory.

Bottom line: It's probably not quite as bad as you think, but it's hardly a triumph of civil liberties either.

So what exactly does the bill do? It says that the president has to hold a foreign Al Qaeda suspect captured on US soil in military detention—except it leaves enough procedural loopholes that someone like convicted underwear bomber and Nigerian citizen Umar Abdulmutallab could actually go from capture to trial without ever being held by the military. It does not, contrary to what many media outlets have reported, authorize the president to indefinitely detain without trial an American citizen suspected of terrorism who is captured in the US.

Read More: http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/12/nitty-gritty-ndaa

Checks and balances.

USSC has ruled on the issue; Congress can't pass a law that blatantly undermines that without a legal challenge.

The President used a veto threat to get changes that, while they don't correct the "big" issue, make sure Congress doesn't pass a law that would almost certainly begin a faceoff with the Supremes.

He knows he can run the clock on the court if he gets four more years to pick another seat or two (and he probably will), and in the meantime run AUMF to the ground by actually destroying al Qaeda. Once a decent legal argument can be made that al Q are no longer a meaningful threat, look for challenges to AUMF to begin in earnest -- especially if there's a US citizen detainee case.

A seriously creepy chess player would make certain there was one in the pipeline, so to speak, set to go off in court at just the right time to end this national nightmare.

The Fourth Circuit's Padilla ruling did not overturn the Supreme Court.

USSC didn't hear Padilla on a technicality, but ruled the year before in Hamdi that while they can be held as enemy combatants, US citizens must be allowed to challenge that designation in court -- Fifth Amendment, due process.

Justice O'Connor delivered the majority opinion: "We hold that although Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged here, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker."

I don't think Iran even has an RQ-170.

There are a few pretty good analyses out there (and a few kind of funny ones) that outline several problems with the photographs and video Iran has put forward of the UAV they claim to have brought down electronically.

Iran's track record on actually having shot down what they've said they did speaks for itself. Our own government (and President) are being more than a little vague -- yes, we lost a UAV. No, we won't confirm the one on Iran TV is the one we lost. Yes, we've asked Iran to let us have it back if it's ours. And so on. There's a sense, at least to me, that we're not in on the joke.

The RQ-170 was Lockheed's big return to the UAV market. It's a fairly secret aircraft, in that there are only a handful of bad photos in the public sphere of it. I find it revealing (!) that the UAV Iran is showing us is being shown in no new ways, at no new angles -- in other words, we're not seeing a detail of the exhaust, which would be a first (and something I'd LOVE to get a look at), or a close-up of the landing gear, or any indication of sensor placement.

This is all stuff that a haphazard filming -- which is what we're kind of led to believe this was -- would probably show us. But no dice. Instead we've got this weird table-skirt banner stuff, and a brief walk from the magician's distance around the front of the thing.

Another matter that no one's latched onto yet: part numbers. A typical Lockheed UAV system will have more than 1,000 parts, each with its own number; 90% of those parts will have the number printed or stamped on them. A single part number would go a long way.

Finally, as I was using Google's image search to find more pictures of the thing Iran's showing us, I stumbled across this:

It's probably pure coincidence that Iranian students built this last year, and that it looks so similar in construction materials. It's a small drone called the Shir Dal.
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