Congress considers repeal of indefinite detention and torture
US President Barack Obama inked the National Defense Authorization Act on New Year’s Eve, essentially allowing the American Armed Forces to indefinitely detain any suspected terrorist, including Americans, without ever bringing them to trial. Though President Obama has spoken out against the act — the very same one he signed — the legislation is currently in effect and allows the US government to grossly strip away rights otherwise guaranteed by the country’s Constitution.
The federal government has already gone to the NDAA to support the continued detention of alleged foreign terrorists, but two members of Congress, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington and Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, are asking other lawmakers in the House and Senate to sign their name on a bill that will make sure anyone — American or not — will be given a fair trial.
"The goal here is to have clarity, first of all, on how these people are handled in the US, and second of all, to reassert the primacy and the importance of our civil justice system," Smith says of the proposed bill. "It is our contention that our civil justice system absolutely protects us from the threat in this case."
In addition to holding a position within the US House of Representatives, Congressman Smith is also the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Both him and Senator Udall proposed their own solutions to the detainment provisions before Congress on Thursday this week.
Although he signed the NDAA into law, President Obama has opposed the own legislation that his administration helped create. Since being authorized last year though, some lawmakers have proposed solutions of their own even before Smith and Udall offered their alternative. Elected officials in the states of Virginia, Washington and Utah have already drafted legislation of their own that reverses the indefinite detention provision, Section 1021 of the NDAA, in their own state. Additionally, Texas congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul has offered a bill on his own that would negate the controversial conditions within the act. As none of these laws have yet to be approved, though, Smith and Udall hope that the federal government will give in to increased pressure and pull the plug on their own provision.
"More than 10 years later, one thing has become absolutely clear: our criminal justice system in the US is 100 percent adequate to take care of this problem," says Smith in discussing America’s post-9/11 courts. "But at the same time, on the books we have a law that gives the executive branch the power to indefinitely detain people here in the US, even US citizens. And we believe that we should take that off the books."