Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced legislation Thursday that would revoke the executive branch’s power to indefinitely detain terror suspects on U.S. soil whether they are citizens or not.
Smith and Udall said that federal law enforcement has proven itself more than capable of handling the threat of terrorism and that federal courts have prosecuted more than 400 terror related cases.
“Our bill would prevent the erosion of our civil liberties and it would strengthen our national security,” Udall said at a news conference introducing the companion bills. “Even in our darkest hours we must ensure that our Constitution prevails.”
President Obama claimed to oppose the military detention provisions in the defense authorization bill but signed it anyway and issued a signing statement indicating that his administration would ignore the military detention provisions.
Sen. Udall said that even if Obama indicated he won’t detain U.S. citizens, the executive branch should not have the ability to wield that power.
“That is the interpretation of just this president,” Udall said. “That policy won’t tie the hands of future administrations.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif) is concerned the new legislation would “go too far” by eliminating the option of military custody, spokesman Claude Chafin said.
“Under the guise of providing ‘access’ to civilian courts, the Smith-Udall bill would actually require that foreign terrorists like the underwear bomber be held by civilian authorities and tried in civilian courts as common criminals,” Chafin said. “Those who attack us are not mere criminals, but terrorists. … They should be treated as such.”
Someone should inform Chafin that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, was tried, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in a federal court last month.
Sen. Smith said that the legislation would remove any confusion in Congress and the public over the military detention of U.S. citizens by eliminating altogether the executive branch’s ability to detain in military custody all terror suspects captured in the United States.
“More than 10 years later, one thing is clear, Our criminal justice system in the United States is 100 percent adequate to take care of this problem,” Smith said.