After NDAA Amendment, Indefinite Detention Still the Law

Originally published at The New American

In a shameful display of disregard for the Constitution and for liberty, on Friday, the House of Representatives voted to perpetuate the president’s power to indefinitely detain American citizens.

By a vote of 238-182, members of Congress rejected the amendment offered by Representatives Adam Smith (D-Washington) and Justin Amash (R-Michigan) (left and right, respectively in photo montage at left) that would have repealed the indefinite detention provision passed overwhelmingly last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012.

The Fiscal Year 2013 NDAA retains the indefinite detention provisions, as well as the section permitting prisoners to be transferred from civilian jurisdiction to the custody of the military.

“The frightening thing here is that the government is claiming the power under the Afghanistan authorization for use of military force as a justification for entering American homes to grab people, indefinitely detain them and not give them a charge or trial,” Representative Amash said during House debate.

Debate on the Smith-Amash Amendment, as well as about 140 others began in the early, pre-dawn hours Friday morning.

In his impassioned speech supporting his amendment, Representative Smith reminded his colleagues that the NDAA granted to the president “extraordinary” powers and divested the American people of key civil liberties, as well as divesting civilian courts of their constitutional jurisdiction.

Smith pointed out that there was no need to transfer suspects into military custody as “hundreds” of terrorists have been tried in federal courts since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Congressmen — Republicans and Democrats — were not persuaded and they voted against Smith-Amash.

Another amendment offered by Representatives Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Jeff Landry (R-Louisiana), and Scott Rigell (R-Virginia) passed by a vote of 243-173. The Gohmert Amendment (House Amendment 1126) states that the NDAA will not “deny the writ of habeas corpus or deny any Constitutional rights for persons detained in the United States under the AUMF who are entitled to such rights.”

Again, this amendment is yet another indefensible use of vague language that would make it vulnerable to challenge in any court in any state in the Union, but somehow adds to its appeal among the Republicans in Congress.

Smith and those supporting his amendment claimed that Gohmert’s Amendment was unnecessary as it does nothing of any value other than restate what is already settled law: viz., that Americans have the right to a ask for a writ of habeas corpus.

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