Believe it or not, the Council on American-Islamic Relations might actually have something in common with tea party members. It's about last year's National Defense Authorization Act, which a federal judge ruled last week is vague enough to potentially allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens.
Tea partiers (and libertarians of other stripes) waving around copies of the Constitution say it's a gross abuse of government power to allow the military to pluck people out of their American homes and call them enemy combatants. CAIR agrees.
Despite his chest-thumping defense of the Constitution at every fundraiser and motorcycle rally he can rumble into, West rose in opposition last week to an amendment that would specifically guarantee constitutional rights to anyone arrested on terrorism charges on United States soil. It basically says that if you're arrested in America, you're guaranteed the due process afforded you by that book West is waving around all the time.
West said the military should be allowed to do what it wants, including to American citizens, because "we cannot look to guarantee to those who would seek to harm us the constitutional rights that are granted to Americans."
"We're all on this battlefield," he said in his defense of letting the Army subvert the Constitution on American soil. This was after he opened with an anecdote about Nazis.
West added, "I find it very interesting that a sponsor of this amendment is the Council for American-Islamic Relations [sic] that is a co-conspirator, unindicted co-conspirator, for the largest terrorist financing --" and then he was cut off.
Washington Rep. Adam Smith was the one doing the cutting of, responding with, "I point out that only members of Congress are allowed to sponsor amendments."
He's right, but I figured it was best to check in with CAIR, as their alleged support of the amendment was being used to somehow prove its insidious intent.
"We're against the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens," said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. "Why is he even bring us up in reference to the NDAA other than that he's fixated on Muslims?"
CAIR national legislative director Corey Saylor said sponsor wasn't an accurate word for the group's support of the amendment, but he did say that the group "did go around and tell offices that we were in support of it."
"[It's not new] to target organizations representing a disliked minority. I stand on our arguments, though. What we're arguing for is our government does not have a way to indefinitely detain anyone in our country," Saylor said, pointing out that the Constitution refers to "all persons," even if West says terror suspects don't count.
"If he's offended by that, [his problem is] not with CAIR. His problem is with the founding fathers," Saylor said. "The Constitution guarantees due process, and we believe that the sections 1021 and 1022 remove that."
In any case, the point is moot -- the amendment was voted down the next day. But both Saylor and Hooper said it was a simple constitutional argument the group was espousing, nothing more.
"Allen West seems to have a personal vendetta against the American Muslim community and will push that vendetta forward at each and every opportunity. Why he chose this one, I don't know, but that's Allen West," Hooper said. "At least he's not calling us communists."