The Senate last night overwhelmingly passed a massive $662 billion defense bill that calls for crippling sanctions against Iran, requires the military to hold suspected terrorists—even those busted on US soil—and would allow detention of American citizens suspected of terrorism indefinitely without trial. The White House has threatened to veto the bill because of the ramp-up in the military role in handling terrorists. "Applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the US would raise serious legal questions, and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets," the White House said in a statement. The bill would require military custody of suspects linked to al-Qaeda or its affiliates and involved in an attack or a plot against the US. American citizens would be exempt.
But the legislation also would allow authorities to deny suspected terrorists, even citizens seized in the US, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention, reports AP. The provision infuriates civil rights groups. "Since the bill puts military detention authority on steroids and makes it permanent, American citizens are at greater risk of being locked away by the military without charge or trial if this bill becomes law," said the senior legislative counsel for the ACLU. The 93-7 vote backed military expenditures $27 billion less than what President Obama requested and $43 billion less than last year. The Senate's version must still be reconciled with the House-passed measure. In other action yesterday, Senate Republicans rejected renewing a temporary cut in payroll taxes, even though both parties have promised to reach a compromise on a tax break before they recess for the holidays. (Read more Senate stories.)