(MintPress) – On Thursday, two members of the United States Congress urged lawmakers to repeal a portion of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows for indefinite detention of any suspected terrorist without trial. Democrats Rep. Adam Smith of Washington and Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado proposed a bill that would remove the indefinite detention clause, and pushed for members of the House and Senate to sign it.
“The goal here is to have clarity, first of all, on how these people are handled in the U.S., and second of all, to reassert the primacy and the importance of our civil justice system,” Smith said of the bill he was proposing. “It is our contention that our civil justice system absolutely protects us from the threat in this case.”
Smith is looking to push through a repeal of the provision during a time when President Obama has vocalized his disdain for the law, but signed the entirety of the act anyway. Obama has said in the past that the measure would not be used against Americans. Smith, however, wants the provision eliminated from the NDAA, as he believes it should not even be an option in the U.S. to indefinitely detain a person without offering them a fair trial.
“More than 10 years later, one thing has become absolutely clear: our criminal justice system in the US is 100 percent adequate to take care of this problem,” says Smith in discussing America’s post-9/11 courts. “But at the same time, on the books we have a law that gives the executive branch the power to indefinitely detain people here in the U.S., even U.S. citizens. And we believe that we should take that off the books.”
The start of something
The two congressmen have added their names as part of a larger movement that has already begun at a state level to repeal Section 1021 of the NDAA. The Tennessee legislature proposed a bill earlier in the year that would press kidnapping charges against federal agents who act on the indefinite detention clause. The legislation will be available to vote upon during Tennessee’s 2012 legislative sessions.
Mike Maharrey, director of the Tenth Amendment Center blog, said a bill countering the NDAA addition is an exercise of state government checking the federal government and making sure it acts in the interest of the people.
“It falls on the states to step in and protect their citizens,” he said. “I can’t imagine a more clear-cut application of state and local interposition as a check on federal power. What could be a more palpable, deliberate and dangerous unconstitutional act than the federal government indefinitely detaining an American citizen without due process?”
In February, Virginia’s lower house of the General Assembly approved a bill that would prohibit state officials from complying with Section 1021 of the NDAA. The bill still has to pass a state Senate vote, and if it does, Virginia would become the first state to completely repeal indefinite detention under the NDAA.
A summary of the Virginia bill states that the legislation “prevents any agency, political subdivision, employee, or member of the military of Virginia from assisting an agency of the armed forces of the United States in the conduct of the investigation, prosecution, or detention of a United States citizen in violation of the United States Constitution, Constitution of Virginia, or any Virginia law or regulation.”
Proponents for the repeal bill in Virginia say that their duty as lawmakers is to abide by and uphold the Constitution, and that indefinite detention without trial is in glaring conflict with the Constitution. Bob Marshall, author of the Virginia bill, says the NDAA was designed to fight terrorists, but that you “don’t defeat terrorists by adopting their tactics.”
Most recently, the state of Utah drew up legislation condemning the NDAA for its vague description of who would be classified as a “terrorist” under the bill and, like the aforementioned states, repeals the indefinite detention clause.
Utah legislators have expressed concern that by simply speaking out or demonstrating against actions taken by the U.S., a citizen could be classified as a “terrorist” and potentially could be subjected to measures found in the NDAA.
The state of Washington was one of the first states to propose a bill to repeal indefinite detention in the act. However, the legislation, proposed by five lawmakers, has failed to come to a vote in the state, showing the difficulties repeal bills have of becoming state law.
Ron Paul’s speaks out
Shortly after the NDAA was signed, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke out against the NDAA and the clauses found within it. Paul, who is campaigning with a libertarian domestic and foreign policy, said the Obama administration was hypocritical for allowing the bill to pass because it is the same human rights violation that the administration criticizes overseas.
“This is precisely the kind of egregious distortion of justice that Americans have always ridiculed in so many dictatorships overseas,” said Paul, who compared it to the gulag system of the Soviet Union.
The Gulag was a government agency that implemented forced labor camp systems between the 1930s and 1950s. The camps held varying criminals and used over-simplified procedures to convict them.
“I recognize how critical it is that we identify and apprehend those who are suspected of plotting attacks against Americans. But why do we have so little faith in our justice system?” Paul said.