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House Committee Passes Defense Bill Containing Authorization Of Worldwide War

Posted on: May 19, 2011

The House Armed Services Committee late last night finished marking up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains a dangerous provision that authorizes a worldwide war against terrorism. The bill was also amended to include a troubling provision delaying the implementation of the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes both of these NDAA provisions.

The war authorization provision was added to the bill by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), and goes much further than the current authorization of war. It has no expiration date and would allow a president to use military force in any country around the world where there are terrorism suspects, even when there are no connections to the 9/11 attacks or other specific harms or threats to the United States.

“At a time when the majority of Americans want to see limits on U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, the House Armed Services Committee just passed a blank check for executive war authority,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Amazingly, this provision has had zero hearings and was tucked deep inside a bill that is hundreds of pages long. A new authorization of worldwide war will mean increased violence and will make America less safe. The House should remove this dangerous provision from the defense bill during its debate on the floor.”

The NDAA’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” amendments would, among other things, delay repeal implementation by expanding the repeal law’s certification requirements to include each service chief for each branch of the armed forces. Another amendment would deny lesbian and gay service members equal access to federal facilities on the basis of their sexual orientation. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed with the support and leadership of President Obama, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff less than six months ago with large and bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. The policy was passed into law in 1993 and, since 1994, more than 14,000 otherwise qualified service members have been discharged under the policy simply on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“Delaying and derailing implementation of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal is wholly unwarranted and an unnecessary last-ditch effort to continue a discriminatory policy,” said Murphy. “These wrongheaded amendments go against the will of the president and the top tiers of our military, not to mention the tens of thousands of LGBT Americans serving our country in silence. We urge the House to strip these harmful amendments from the bill.”

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