This is a very dark moment. The National Defense Appropriation Act has passed a vote in the House of Representatives and the White House has dropped its opposition to it after some language changes in the detainee articles gave new powers to the president. The measure is now headed for the Senate.
The government will have the legal authority to detain anybody, anywhere, for any length of time, and without formal charges. It applies to American citizens as well as foreign citizens. The detainees will be in the custody of the military and not civilian authorities. They will not be arraigned in civilian courts.
The detainee portion of the Act goes against the 4th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Although theoretically the law is aimed at Al Qaeda, there is no guarantee whatsoever that its mantle will not be extended against political dissidents and protesters. There are no restrictions as to the targets of the law.
The president, having obtained the option of transferring detainees to civilian authorities if he wants to, appears to be inclined to sign the bill.