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House Approves Continuation Of Indefinite Detention For Terror Suspects

A unlikely coalition failed to derail the government's practice of holding terror suspects for indefinite periods of time.

Some Democrats and Tea Party Republicans put the issue to a vote through an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have ended the practice but it ultimately failed, today, in the GOP-controlled house by a vote of 238 to 182.

The AP reports:

"'The frightening thing here is that the government is claiming the power under the Afghanistan authorization for use of military force as a justification for entering American homes to grab people, indefinitely detain them and not give them a charge or trial,' [Rep. Justin Amash] said during hours of House debate.

"The policy's supporters argued that ending it would weaken national security and coddle terrorists."

The amendment was sponsored by Amash, a Republican from Michigan, and Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington.

The Hill does a great job at breaking down in detail what the debate is all about. The essence of it is whether people detained in the U.S. on terror charges still have the protection of the U.S. Constitution. Those who opposed the Amendment, for example, believe that suspected terrorists shouldn't be protected by the Miranda rights and shouldn't have the right to remain silent, for example, because the government should be able to extract important intelligence.

Smith and Amash would like to see suspected terrorists tried by the civilian justice system and take away what they say is the president's "extraordinary" power. Smith and Amash say the Constitution protects everyone in the country.

The Hill points out that the House did authorize a separate amendment to the NDAA that "affirmed U.S. citizens would not be denied habeas corpus rights."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.