The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have both joined our fight for civilian trials for terrorism suspects and against a troubling detention provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA provision would allow for the indefinite military custody of those accused of terrorism and could even allow for the indefinite detention without charge or trial of American citizens. Quoting from the New York Times, here are a few of the problems with the provision:
- It could cripple F.B.I. investigations of terrorism suspects and agents’ ability to disrupt plots.
- There is no provision for judicial review of the decision to send a prisoner to military detention. The government has mistakenly detained hundreds of men — that we know of — on suspicion of terrorism in the last 10 years.
- It’s unnecessary since civil courts have a track record of success in trying, convicting and sentencing terrorism suspects. The military tribunals created by President George W. Bush and improved by President Obama have a record of failure.
In related news, Last week, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have banned the use of federal courts for terrorism suspects. Thankfully, the amendment failed. The Los Angeles Times is completely correct when it says:
…the case for civilian trials is a strong one. They provide more due process than military commissions. To the extent that the war on terror is a battle for hearts and minds, they show the world that the United States is willing to accord even its enemies the full panoply of rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Many within the beltway believe the failure of the Ayotte amendment bodes well for growing resistance to the NDAA’s detention provision.
To provide even more momentum against the NDAA’s detention provision, 13 Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee wrote to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) encouraging him to take the provision out of the bill.
Given all of the opposition mounting to this provision, it would be pretty unwise to bring the NDAA to the floor in its current form. We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that happens. Add your voice to the opposition by contacting your Senator now.