Amendment May Prohibit Indefinite Detention
On January 1, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, an annual bill authorizing military spending. Two provisions in that year’s bill stood out: These provisions provided the government the power to indefinitely detain and render into military custody any person – citizen or not – apprehended on suspicion of terrorism. As I’ve discussed numerous times before, these provisions represent among the most egregious violations of American civil liberties since the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. As a result of these dangerous provisions, innocent American civilians could be arrested by the police and find themselves held at the Guantanamo Bay facility without legal recourse. This is completely unacceptable.
In addition, this issue is disturbing to the American Jewish community because of our history as a minority, which has made us cherish even more the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution. The vitality of these freedoms is confirmed not only by our commitment to our American heritage, but also by centuries of Jewish law. As we strive to strike the appropriate balance between these cherished freedoms and our national security, we are reminded of the words in Deuteronomy 16:20, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” The justness of our legal system is threatened if civilians can be detained indefinitely in military prisons without access to a speedy trial in civilian court.
In recent weeks, Congress has been considering the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. This debate represents an opportunity to reverse the dangerous and quite possibly unconstitutional provisions authorized by NDAA for FY 2012—and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) have seized that opportunity. The Smith-Amash Amendment to the FY 2013 NDAA would effectively reverse those provisions by requiring all individuals apprehended by U.S. officials to be rendered to civilian custody and provided with timely civilian trials.
Image courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union.