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Political Corruption, Alaska-Style: Provision in NDAA Benefits Native Corp Instrumental in Murkowski's Write-In Campaign

Credit - AP

Credit – AP

By Edwin Mora. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) negotiated the inclusion of a land entitlement provision in the “must-pass” National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for a Sealaska, an Alaska Native Regional Corporation that helped fund her re-election in 2010 as a write-in candidate.

The NDAA, which includes a public lands package that has been lambasted by conservative lawmakers as unrelated to defense operations, passed the House last week. It is expected to be voted on in the Senate this week.

The public lands package includes the conveyance of tens of thousands of acres in the Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corp. It would allow the corporation to handpick lands outside the boundaries set by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

In the past, “opponents have accused the Native corporation of choosing some of the best and most valuable lands in the national forest for their own private, moneymaking enterprises,” reported The Associated Press in June 2010.

A Dec. 3 press release acknowledged that Murkowski helped negotiate the Sealaska measure into the NDAA.

Read more from this story HERE.

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NDAA Passes, Authorizes Transfer of Large Tracts of Land to Fed Govt.

Credit: Reuters - Jonathan Ernst

Credit: Reuters – Jonathan Ernst

By Donna Casata

Congress on Friday sent President Barack Obama a massive defense policy bill that endorses his stepped-up military campaign of air strikes and training of Iraqis and moderate Syrian rebels in the war against Islamic State militants.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill that authorizes funds for basic military operations, including construction of new ships, aircraft, and weapons as well as a 1 percent pay raise for the troops. The vote was 89-11.

A coalition of defense hawks and Western state Republicans overcame objections by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and several other GOP senators, who were furious that unrelated provisions to designate 250,000 acres of new, federally protected wilderness were added to the popular legislation dedicated to military operations.

The measure would authorize the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebels battling the extremists, a mandate that lasts for two years. It also would provide $5 billion to train Iraqis to counter the militants who brutally rule large sections of Iraq and Syria.

“American air power had changed the momentum on the ground somewhat and given moderates in the region an opportunity to regroup, but ISIS cannot be defeated without an opposing force to take the fight to it on the ground,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “To do that, our Arab and Muslim partners must be in the lead because the fight with ISIS is primarily a struggle within Islam for the hearts and minds of Muslims.”

Read more from this story HERE.

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Cruz Votes Against NDAA

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, today voted against the National Defense Authorization Act citing several concerns, including an extreme land grab provision and ongoing assistance to Syrian rebels.

“The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act includes a number of problematic provisions, including an extension through 2016 of the program to arm Syrian rebels and an extreme land grab that restricts more than a half-million new acres of property from productive use,” said Sen. Cruz. “This is yet another example of Majority Leader Reid’s legacy of obstruction by not allowing any amendments to be called on this bill.

Read more from this story HERE.

NDAA Passes, Authorizes Transfer of Large Tracts of Land to Fed Govt.

Credit: Reuters - Jonathan Ernst

Credit: Reuters – Jonathan Ernst

By Donna Casata

Congress on Friday sent President Barack Obama a massive defense policy bill that endorses his stepped-up military campaign of air strikes and training of Iraqis and moderate Syrian rebels in the war against Islamic State militants.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill that authorizes funds for basic military operations, including construction of new ships, aircraft, and weapons as well as a 1 percent pay raise for the troops. The vote was 89-11.

A coalition of defense hawks and Western state Republicans overcame objections by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and several other GOP senators, who were furious that unrelated provisions to designate 250,000 acres of new, federally protected wilderness were added to the popular legislation dedicated to military operations.

The measure would authorize the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebels battling the extremists, a mandate that lasts for two years. It also would provide $5 billion to train Iraqis to counter the militants who brutally rule large sections of Iraq and Syria.

“American air power had changed the momentum on the ground somewhat and given moderates in the region an opportunity to regroup, but ISIS cannot be defeated without an opposing force to take the fight to it on the ground,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “To do that, our Arab and Muslim partners must be in the lead because the fight with ISIS is primarily a struggle within Islam for the hearts and minds of Muslims.”

Read more from this story HERE.

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Cruz Votes Against NDAA

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, today voted against the National Defense Authorization Act citing several concerns, including an extreme land grab provision and ongoing assistance to Syrian rebels.

“The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act includes a number of problematic provisions, including an extension through 2016 of the program to arm Syrian rebels and an extreme land grab that restricts more than a half-million new acres of property from productive use,” said Sen. Cruz. “This is yet another example of Majority Leader Reid’s legacy of obstruction by not allowing any amendments to be called on this bill.

Read more from this story HERE.

Obama Wants to Force Military Chaplains to Violate Their Religious Beliefs

President Barack Obama called a conscience clause for military chaplains in the National Defense Authorization Act “unnecessary and ill-advised.”

The NDAA provision ordered that no member of the armed forces may require a chaplain to perform a rite or ceremony that violates the chaplain’s beliefs, and that chaplains may not be disciplined for refusing to perform such a ceremony.

The provision, which was introduced by now-former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, was a response to Obama’s 2011 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Religious liberty advocates and chaplains worried that they may be required to violate their consciences by administering sacraments or officiating marriage ceremonies to gay service members, which would be contrary to some religious traditions, including those of the Catholic Church.

“The Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs of a member of the armed forces reflecting the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment,” the bill read.

Read more from this story HERE.

NDAA Battle Ends in Defeat for ‘Indefinite Detention’ Opponents

In less than a month, critics of the National Defense Authorization Act’s (NDAA) treatment of American citizens accused of terrorism went from a lopsided victory to an equally lopsided defeat, as Congress easily passed the bill without critics’ preferred language on indefinite detention.

Some lawmakers believed that the NDAA allowed the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial if they faced terror accusations, though supporters of the bill contested that reading. In November, the Senate voted 67 to 29 to adopt a bipartisan amendment that made clear that Americans could not be held indefinitely.

The amendment declared, “An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

Even that amendment didn’t go far enough for some, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash. They argued that the phrase “unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention” suggests there is no constitutional barrier to indefinite detention.

The amendment, introduced by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, was nevertheless viewed as a solid compromise. It even won the vote of South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had opposed similar amendments in 2011.

Read more from this story HERE.

Obama & the NDAA: Actions Speak Louder than Words

In this Reality Check segment, the Fox commentator talks about the Obama Administration’s stated opposition to NDAA and then interviews the President. But after observing that the Department of Justice is nevertheless challenging federal court orders barring implementation of the NDAA, the Fox commentator concludes that Obama has been lying as “actions speak louder than words”:

Federal Judge Strikes Down ‘Indefinite Detention’ Provision of NDAA

An anti-terrorism law was struck down Wednesday by a federal judge who said she saw legitimate fears in claims by journalists, scholars and political activists that they could face indefinite detention for exercising First Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan ruled that the law, passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, was unconstitutional. She said the government has softened its position toward those who filed suit challenging the law, but she said the “shifting view” could not erase the threat of indefinite military detention. She urged Congress to make the law more specific or consider whether it is needed at all.

“First Amendment rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and cannot be legislated away,” Forrest wrote. “This Court rejects the Government’s suggestion that American citizens can be placed in military detention indefinitely, for acts they could not predict might subject them to detention.”

In May, the judge temporarily struck down the law subjecting to indefinite detention anyone who “substantially” or “directly” provides “support” to forces such as al-Qaida or the Taliban. She heard additional arguments last month before issuing the final ruling, likely to be appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

While calling the law “unconstitutionally overbroad,” Forrest said the government can use another law to indefinitely detain people connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or others picked up on the field of battle. She said the government at some point without additional congressional authorization began interpreting its detention authority more broadly.

Read more from this story HERE.