6-12-2012By Patrick Hanley
Law and Security Program
Representatives Adam Smith, Justin Amash and John Garamendi are at it again! This time, they have introduced the Civil Liberties Act, which would roll back the indefinite detention provision and repeal the mandatory military custody provision from last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
We should all appreciate this effort. After all, in an age when political discourse in this country is increasingly polarized, the initial provisions in last year’s NDAA were opposed by Americans on all ends of the political spectrum, from civil liberties groups to the Tea Party. The Civil Liberties Act is a great first step for fixing the troublesome provisions that were signed into law last year, authorizing indefinite detention and mandating mandatory military custody for a category of foreign terrorism suspects. Reps. Smith and Amash proposed the same language a few weeks ago as an amendment to this year’s NDAA and while the amendment ultimately fell short, it received bipartisan support with 19 Republicans voting for the measure. At that time, a group of 27 retired generals and admirals said in a joint letter, “the indefinite detention and mandatory military custody provisions passed into law in the Fiscal Year 2012 NDAA will do more harm than good. The Smith-Amash Amendment, if passed into law, would be an important first step towards reversing this damage.”
In a joint op-ed this past week Senator Mark Udall, who introduced a Senate version of the original amendment, and Rep. Adam Smith write, “The question of civilian versus military authority is irrelevant to our enemies. It is, however, incredibly important to protecting Americans’ constitutional rights and freedoms while still allowing us to effectively fight terrorism…As Congress works to update our national defense policy and the courts continue to weigh the implications of allowing indefinite military detention without trial, we remain committed to defending our country from those who seek to do us harm, both abroad and here at home.”
This year’s NDAA is currently making its way through the Senate and is due to be debated and passed later this year. Let’s hope the Senate takes up the Civil Liberties Act and works to roll back the ill-advised indefinite detention and mandatory military custody provisions.