December 10, 2011

It seems I was wrong

I could not find those portions of the NDAA (S.1867, National Defense Appropriations Act) that had everyone up in arms, so I wrote my Senator and asked him to confirm if the version of this act being debated on the Senate floor actually contained language that would allow the U.S. President to order the U.S. Army to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens without legal counsel, courts, and so on. It seems I was wrong, which is fine. No one is perfect after all. Senator Sherrod Brown, my representative in the Senate, responded to my concerns with this letter:
Dear Mr. Miller:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the detention and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

I share your concern about provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 that would have changed existing law that has been effective in trying al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The Justice Department and the Department of Defense have determined that trials of detainees can be conducted safely in the United States, whether they are conducted in federal or military courts. Furthermore, the Department of Justice has a long and successful history of prosecuting maximum security terrorism defendants in U.S. federal courts.

I voted for several amendments to the NDAA that would have removed the proposed changes. Senate Amendment 1107 would have removed language in the bill regarding the legal status of detainees suspected of terrorism. This Amendment would have instructed Congress to hold hearings on the matter before changing existing laws. While I voted for this Amendment, it was defeated by a vote of 38-60.

I also voted for Senate Amendment 1126 to the NDAA, which would have limited the military’s authority to detain American citizens indefinitely without being charged or brought to trial. This Amendment was also defeated by a vote of 45-55.

Finally, the Senate was able to adopt Amendment 1456, which determined that the NDAA would not modify current law regarding holding U.S. citizens in military detention. I voted for this Amendment and it was included in the final version of the NDAA, which passed the Senate on December 1, 2011.

The war on terrorism must not be an excuse to circumvent our constitutional rights and values. As a United States Senator, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. I will continue to do so.

Should the Senate consider this matter further, I will keep your concerns and our nation’s Constitution in mind. Thank you again for getting in touch with me on this important matter.

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator