This afternoon the Virginia State Senate narrowly defeated a move to recommit the antidetention bill, HB 1160, sponsored by Del. Bob Marshall. (report here) The effort to recommit, which would have killed the bill for this year, failed on a 20-20 vote, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote against recommittal. The Senate agreed to bring the bill to the floor tomorrow, Tuesday, February 27. VIRGINIA RESIDENTS – ACTION ALERT ON THIS BILL AT THIS LINK
Delegate Bob Marshall issued the following statement:
The Virginia Senate’s action gives the people of Virginia another day to let their Senators know what they think about Congress empowering the U.S. Military to take a citizen off the nation’s streets, incarcerate him without charges, deprive him of the right to a lawyer, and hold him for an unlimited amount of time. That is the way things may be done in some other countries, but not here. This bill provides that we, here in Virginia, will not assist the federal government in enforcing this law.
Even President Obama had questions about the bill, when he promised the American people that he would not use the unrestrained powers it granted him — but why should we trust any President with such powers?
During World War II, the federal government incarcerated tens of thousands of loyal Japanese Americans in the name of national security. By this bill, Virginia declares that it will not participate in similar modern-day efforts.
There are moments in our history when our liberties hang in the balance. This is one of those moments. I urge the Senate when it votes tomorrow to join the overwhelming vote in the House to pass this bill, to lead the way in the nation to ensure that Virginia will not cooperate when the Federal Government strays off the reservation with laws that take away the civil liberties of our citizens.
Supporting HB 1160 are groups as varied as Gun Owners of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Even Forbes Magazine states: “The National Defense Authorization Act is the Greatest Threat to Civil Liberties Americans Face.”
Backgrounder: FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act – Section 1021
On December 15, 2011, the United States Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2012 (2012 NDAA). On December 31, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. Buried in 2012 NDAA’s hundreds of pages is Section 1021 which purports to authorize the President of the United States to use the armed forces of the United States to detain American citizens who the President suspects are or have been substantial supporters of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces, and to hold such citizens indefinitely, or prosecute them before a military commission, or transfer them to a foreign country.
In short, Section 1021 authorizes the President to dispose of American citizens suspected of supporting “terrorism” according to the laws of war, as if the United States soil was a battlefield and her citizens enemy combatants, not entitled to the protections of the Bill of Rights, including the rights to trial by jury, representation by counsel, confrontation of witnesses, and due process of law administered by impartial judges.
At the time he signed 2012 NDAA, President Obama assured the American people that he would never exercise the powers granted him under Section 1021. But both his administration and that of former president George W. Bush have asserted that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists already allows the President to indefinitely detain persons without charge, including United States citizens captured in the United States.
Personal assurances are, indeed, no substitute for constitutional guarantees. And constitutional guarantees are not worth the paper that they are written on if there is no force to back them up.
Fortunately, our government is not – like that of many nations – centralized, ruled from the top down by an iron fist. No. The American Constitution is not only designed to secure the liberties of the people and their posterity, but it is a union of sovereign and independent states whose officials are elected, and whose oaths of office commit them, to support the constitutional rights of their respective citizenries. To that end, state and local government officials are called to interpose themselves between the people and the government in Washington should the latter fail to honor the lives, liberties, and properties of the people of their respective jurisdictions.