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Home / Press Release / Johnson Remarks on Defense Spending Bill Praised, Reid Urged to Stand Firm on Bill
October 18, 2011

Johnson Remarks on Defense Spending Bill Praised, Reid Urged to Stand Firm on Bill

Washington, DC – Human Rights First welcomed Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson's statements in opposition to troubling provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and urges Majority Leader Reid to stand firm in refusing to bring the bill to the floor unless the controversial measures are removed.

Johnson, speaking at the Heritage Foundation, warned that these provisions would tie the President's hands in the fight against terrorism and undermine national security. “There is a danger in over-militarizing our approach” to counterterrorism, said Johnson.

"Ten years after 9/11, as we prepare to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in the wake of killing the only leader Al Qaeda has ever known, there's simply no need to promote indefinite military detention for terror suspects," said Human Rights First's Raha Wala.

In his remarks today, Johnson noted that it would undermine national security to authorize military detention of terror suspects apprehended on U.S. soil because it would prompt courts to reject the government’s legal authorities.  A nonpartisan group of 23 retired generals and admirals recently echoed Johnson’s concerns, warning that the defense bill would "authorize the indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects, including American citizens captured on U.S. soil – a policy that is contrary to the very American values needed to win this fight."

The defense bill is still under consideration in the Senate and members have yet to reach an agreement on the measures.  At the time of his initial commitment to block the legislation unless the provisions were stripped, Reid was praised by the nonpartisan group of retired generals and admirals, who noted in a letter to Reid that the detainee provisions would "expand the military’s mission to detain and try a large category of future foreign terror suspects, which falls outside the military’s core competence and erodes faith in the judicial process."

“Majority Leader Reid was right to block these provisions that would undermine national security and our commitment to the rule of law,” said Wala.  “Senator Reid should stick to his guns and put national security ahead of politics.”

At issue are controversial detention provisions were incorporated into the 666 page defense bill during a closed session of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The proposals include one to authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge individuals – including American citizens apprehended on U.S. soil – who are suspected of involvement with terrorism, as well as a provision to force law enforcement officials to transfer a large category of terrorism suspects into military custody.  Human Rights First has noted that the proposals would not only disrupt ongoing terrorism investigations, but would also undermine U.S. national security by forcing the military to take on counterterrorism roles that it is not prepared for and does not want.