An End to the War on Terror? Think Again

A new National Defense Authorization Act is expected to be passed today and signed into law by President Obama. But one section of the legislation—the McCain-Levin bill—is garnering strong condemnation from everyone from civil rights organizations to the CIA.

The McCain-Levin bill contains three main provisions. First, it would expand the military’s authority to arrest suspected terrorists anywhere in the world and hold them indefinitely and without trial. This would even extend to US citizens arrested on US soil.

Second, it would allow the military to detain anyone suspected of supporting a terrorist organization. The definition of “terrorist” is constantly changing and unilaterally defined by the military itself, so the term is hardly constrained to known members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

And last, the bill would impose new restrictions on the transfer or release of detainees being held in Guantanamo.

This is a complete turnaround from the policy Obama promised when he ran for office in 2008. Back then, Obama said he wanted to immediately close Guantanamo. But with his support of the McCain-Levin bill, Obama is effectively allowing anyone, anywhere, including US citizens, to be held indefinitely without trial. Currently, 88 of the 171 prisoners held at Guantanamo have been cleared of terrorist involvement but are still incarcerated.

The end to the war in Iraq was officially declared today, but the McCain-Levin bill goes to show that the so-called “war on terror” is far from over. The battleground is expanding to all corners of the world, with no end in sight.

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