WASHINGTON — In Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio has been attacked as a “traitor.” In Arizona, tea party members protested against Sen. John McCain. In Utah, Occupy demonstrators donned black hoods to stand against “radical and uncalled for constraints on our constitutional rights.”
The uprising is directed at provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by the Senate last week, that would require the military to arrest terrorist suspects in the United States and detain them indefinitely without trial.
The intensity of the debate — from the left and right, primarily about how the law could affect U.S. citizens — underscores how the country is still struggling with profound changes brought by the 9/11 attacks a decade ago.
And it raises fundamental questions about the freedoms that are at the core of the nation, chiefly a right to due process, and whether they apply to the evolving battle lines.
“The last thing a terrorist should hear when they are captured is, ‘You have the right to remain silent,’ ” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a leading proponent.
Advocates say the changes affirm tools the government already has. Critics say the provisions are too broad, allowing the president to define who is an enemy combatant.
The law would cover those who aid al-Qaida, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States, including anyone who has “committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”
President Barack Obama has threatened a veto, arguing the measures would complicate civilian intelligence gathering. FBI director Robert Mueller and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have objected as well. The bill includes a waiver to keep people in the civilian system, but administration officials say that too is cumbersome and would devour critical time in an investigation.
Despite White House objections, the Senate approved the defense bill by a 93-7 vote Dec. 1…
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