Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) urged his colleagues on Monday to ensure that next year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) did not allow the military to detain anyone on U.S. soil without trial.
The NDAA of 2013 released by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon includes language stating that any person detained in the United States must have his or her day in court.
“I want thank the Chairman for including language that restates current law as it applies to Habeas Corpus, but we must do more to protect the Constitution,” Smith, a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said.
“We must use this year’s bill as an opportunity to ensure that any individual detained on U.S. soil under the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) has access to due process and the federal court system – rights clearly stated in the Constitution,” he continued.
“Current law gives the executive branch too much power. Earlier this year, I introduced legislation to address this issue. I fully intend to push an amendment in the spirit of that legislation, and I urge all members who support the Constitution to support my amendment.”
Last year, debate raged over the multi-billion dollar defense funding bill. Civil liberties advocates and others warned that provisions in the NDAA of 2012 could allow the military to detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil without charge or trial, even if they were U.S. citizens.
Obama threatened to veto the entire bill because of the provisions, which he said were “inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.” But he eventually signed a later version of the NDAA, which exempted U.S. citizens from the requirement for terror suspects to be held in military custody.
While signing the bill in December, Obama issued a statement in which he pledged that the new laws would not violate Americans’ constitutional rights. But human rights advocates said Obama’s signing statement did not prevent future administrations from abusing the law.
[Prison image via Shutterstock.com]