March 8th, 2012
12:31 PM ET

Lawmakers announce bill prohibiting indefinite detention in U.S.

Two Democratic members of Congress announced a bill Thursday that would prohibit the indefinite detention of any suspected terrorist apprehended in the United States, whether or not the suspect was a U.S. citizen.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said the legislation would ensure that anyone captured, detained, or arrested in the United States on suspicion of terrorism will go through the civilian justice system and be provided due process rights awarded under the Constitution.

This would not apply to suspected terrorists captured overseas who are now being held at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"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. "It is our contention that our civil justice system absolutely protects us from the threat in this case."

The bill is aimed at amending a controversial provision added to the National Defense Authorization Act that gave the military the authority to indefinitely detain anyone suspected of terrorism in the United States.

"More than 10 years later, one thing has become absolutely clear: our criminal justice system in the U.S. is 100% adequate to take care of this problem," said Smith, who claimed that more than 400 terror suspects have been tried successfully by U.S. civilian 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 National Defense Authorization Act was strongly contested in Congress last year, with the issue of indefinite detention being high on the list of concerns for those who opposed its passing. President Barack Obama threatened to veto the bill, but after amendments were made, he relented.

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. saywhat

    There is a due process of law in this country. And unless we suspect our judicial system to have failed this is the right way to go.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BOMBO ©

    An observation from my vantage point in Canada. I don't know why you folks don't just ship out terrorists more often to countries without the same regard for the law. Suspected terrorist won't co-operate during questioning? No problem. Guess what Achmed, we're sending you to Jordan or Pakistan, with the information that you are a terrorist, and they'll torture you. Then you'll see some co-operation.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. saywhat

    Waterboarding & such has been used , don't worry. No we won't ship them out, not because of any humanitarian reason but because they are just suspected and have been fo years. If we ship them out then a different story then what we want us and others to believe may come out.
    And yes we have detention cells for these suspects spread across countries away from our prying eyes and a lot goes on there.

    @ Andrew Jackson
    We don't fail to protect our citizens. Or havn't you heard? Sting and under-cover operations are going on here all the time and we do parade around those we snare off and on.
    What fails to protect our interests and us is failure of our policies in the global context. We have become some sort of experts in making, creating enemies and losing allies. To the satisfaction of other powers.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. fernace

    About time! I think it needs to be extended to the suspects detained in Gitmo, as well! We should behave as the civilized society we are, (or hope to be) & not base our actions on what others have done to us! When we see an injust law, it's our duty to speak up against it! If we don't uphold our standards, who will? Other nations may condone public torture in the streets, we have due process of the law & it should apply to all detainees!!

    March 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Who is sympathizing with terrorists?
    Do you know one?
    ARE you one?
    Look over your shoulder.
    They're coming to take you away, ha ha.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BOMBO ©

    You are completely right George, I couldn't agree more.

    Don't you miss the good old days?

    March 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. usadavew

    Reblogged this on USA Dave's Blog.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. usadavew

    Reblogged this on USA Dave's Blog.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Philip

    Let's all pretend that there aren't 160 Homeland Security Prisons already built, with the first one built in Tacoma after 9/11. Bush and Congress pushed the largest-ever increase in prison funding on US right after 9/11 to "house the thousands of terrorists we are going to arrest and drag to justice, starting with OBL". Now who do you think are in all of those prisons? Terrorists, like they promised? Or perhaps Americans being held without due process?

    March 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joshua

    It'a about time some Democrats started standing up to Obama and doing what's right for this country. Obama is not a dictator and his executive orders are not law.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chrissy

    @ joshua, thats rights hes NOT, nor has he claimed to be nor acted as if he were! Grow up!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • saywhat

      @ chrissy @ banasy
      No point in trying to be rational with those where rational thought hasn't touched a brain for some time. Its easy to see the froth of hate, lack of understanding and detachment from reality smearing most postings crying 'kill.kill, bomb, bomb, make this country a police state etc".
      This mindset would be our undoing.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Philip

    The United States of America's OFFICIAL foreign policy is PREEMPTIVE WAR. Many of you folks don't seem to understand what *preemptive* means. And what it means for YOU in the near future...when instead of a reminder letter from the IRS you get a knock on your door, with two well armed men in snappy business attire, dark sunglasses, and a few questions regarding your online behavior these past 15 years or so.

    March 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Philip

    Since the days of Nixon, the sitting presidents actions are officially considered to be "due process". Murdering your own citizens is a violation of INTERNATIONAL law...NOT US law. Why do you think it was president Obama PERSONALLY ordering that OBL be killed instead of arrested and dragged to Justice? The sitting president is the only man with the LEGAL authority to do so. Note Obama personally ordered both US citizens in Yemen destroyed as well. Google "president declare state emergency".

    March 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Avg. minded American Adult

    @Philip. There could never be enough CIA agents to police America. You are so full of sh/t. (Of course my (Philip) reply would be something like "That's what most Catholic German citizens who joyfully sided with Hitler said to the few Catholics in the nazi resistance. Notice that within a few weeks of Hitler's Enabling Act being passed, the Waffen SS grew to 40,000 men, and a couple of women. Who knows how many the CIA has hired since moving to Denver in 2006. How many agents recalled after finishing up in Iran and Venezuela? Could be hundreds. Thousands. Who knows?

    March 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    Intentionally killing a man wanted for international crimes on foreign soil is a violation of international law. (and also violates common sense and decency, it could even be called "rude") Imagine being a victim of a crime and finding-out some thug killed your best eyewitness. The one whose testimony would get a conviction. Yet you cheer when an US CITIZEN IS KILLED BY YOUR PRESIDENT? On foreign soil even. Two citizens. You won't be cheering when what you say is ok for them becomes ok for you too. Reap what you sow...goes around comes around. Watch out! Here it comes!

    March 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
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