US Congress Endorses 'Indefinite Detention' Policy

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Common Dreams

US Congress Endorses 'Indefinite Detention' Policy

House Fails To Pass Amendment Scaling Back NDAA Indefinite Detention Provisions

by
Common Dreams staff

GTMO representation by Zina Saunder. (Image: Center for Constitutional Rights/ccrjustice.org)

The US House of Representatives this morning endorsed the policy of indefinite detention without trial of terrorist suspects, including US citizens seized on American soil, by failing to pass an amendment that would halt the practice.

The final vote to defeat the amendment -- part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization ACt (NDAA) -- was 182-237.

“Congress today rejected a chance to start to clean up the mess that it made last year with the NDAA indefinite detention provisions,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel in response to the vote. “No president should ever have the power to order the military to imprison civilians located far from any battlefield. By rejecting this amendment, the House of Representatives failed in their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.”

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Agence France-Presse: House backs indefinite definition policy

The measure, backed by an odd coalition of liberal Democrats and some Tea Party-backed Republican conservatives, had sought to ensure that suspected terrorists detained in the United States be charged with crimes and tried in federal courts.

The amendment, which went down by a 182-238 vote, was among the most controversial of 142 amendments under consideration as part of a huge military spending bill that provides $642.5 billion to the Defense Department and other related agencies for the coming fiscal year.

Sponsors Adam Smith, the top Democrat in the House Armed Services Committee, and Republican Justin Amash argued that the rights to a charge and trial are protected by the US Constitution, even for non-American terror suspects if they are caught in the United States.

The Smith-Amash amendment aimed to strike a clause in last year’s Defense Authorization act that allowed for the indefinite detention without trial.

“Leaving these powers on the books is not only a dangerous threat to our civil liberties, but also undermines one of our strongest assets in trying suspected terrorists: (federal) courts and domestic law enforcement,” Smith and Amash said in an opinion piece in Friday’s Politico newspaper.

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ACLU: House Fails To Pass Amendment Scaling Back NDAA Indefinite Detention Provisions

Today’s amendment, introduced by lead sponsors Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), was offered on this year’s NDAA. It was supported by a broad coalition of groups, which ranged from the ACLU to the Gun Owners of America to the United Methodist Church.

The vote for the Smith-Amash amendment was bipartisan, with 19 Republican members backing the amendment.

“Congress today rejected a chance to start to clean up the mess that it made last year with the NDAA indefinite detention provisions,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “No president should ever have the power to order the military to imprison civilians located far from any battlefield. By rejecting this amendment, the House of Representatives failed in their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.”

The coalition letter in support of the Smith-Amash amendment is here: www.aclu.org/national-security/coalition-memo-house-urging-yes-vote-smithamash-amendment-fy2012-national-defense

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