Senate Approves Controversial $662 Billion Defense Bill

Ignoring the possibility of a presidential veto, the U.S. Senate has approved a controversial defense bill totaling $662 billion.

The bill, which is $43 billion less than the Pentagon was given this year for defense spending, was passed following a long debate on the detention of U.S. citizens and terror suspects on U.S. soil.

Although an agreement was reached on the debate as to what powers the military should have on U.S. soil and whether U.S. citizens could be detained indefinitely, some civil liberties activists warn that the compromise reached on the bill does little to protect citizens from detention within their own borders.

Activist’s warnings arise even though the bill makes American citizens exempt from indefinite military detainment.

“Since the bill puts military detention authority on steroids and makes it permanent, American citizens and others are at greatest risk of being locked away by the military without charge or trial if this bill becomes a law,” Christopher Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union told the AP.

The bill would require that the military hold suspected terrorists captured on U.S. soil that are linked to al-Qaida or affiliate groups. The bill passed by a vote of 93-7.

Other government agencies that are also instrumental to fighting the war on terrorism oppose the new provisions in the bill, arguing that the provisions hamper their capacities to face domestic threats emanating from al Qaida and its affiliates.

Both FBI Director Robert Mueller and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta oppose the provisions. Opposition to the new bill also stems from the Obama Administration which sees the provisions as challenging or constraining the “president’s authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the nation.”

However, the Senate holds that the provisions in the bill “supports present law.”

The White House has threatened to veto the bill due to conflicts over the added detainee provisions.

The bill also includes a push for harsher sanctions against Iran due to concerns over its nuclear program. The sanctions have widespread support from Congress and the Obama Administration as many fear that Iran is taking its nuclear program to unacceptable and potentially dangerous levels.