November 29, 2011
National Security at Risk as Udall, Webb Amendment Fails to Pass Senate
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today criticized the U.S. Senate’s defeat of an amendment cosponsored by Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Jim Webb (D-VA) to strip troubling provisions from the defense authorization bill. The group said the legislation, as currently written, undermines national security. "It is a shame that the Senate put politics ahead of national security today,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “These provisions undermine our fundamental American values and seek to tie the President’s hands in our nation’s effort to combat terrorism. Though this measure has failed, it is essential that lawmakers work together to fix these provisions or the President will have no choice but to veto it.” The Udall, Webb amendment would have removed three troubling sections of the defense authorization bill, proposals that the Obama Administration has warned could result in a Presidential veto. One section authorizes the military to indefinitely detain without charge individuals – including American citizens apprehended on U.S. soil – who are suspected of involvement with terrorism. A second section forces law enforcement officials to transfer a large category of terrorism suspects into military custody, against the advice of counterterrorism professionals. A third section will further institute restrictions on the transfer of cleared Guantanamo detainees. In a letter released yesterday, Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller expressed opposition to the legislation’s controversial mandatory military custody provision. Despite claims by the bill's draftsmen that they had fixed all the problems associated with this section, Director Mueller said that it "may adversely impact our ability to continue ongoing terrorism investigations before or after arrest, derive intelligence from those investigations, and may raise extraneous issues in any future prosecution" of terrorism suspects. Director Mueller's opposition to the provision followed similar concerns raised by a growing number of national security experts who have examined the issue, including Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson, Obama Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and 16 former interrogators and counterterrorism professionals. In addition, yesterday, 26 of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders urged Senators to support the Udall amendment to strip the troubling provisions. The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the defense authorization bill if it contains the controversial detention provisions.