Amendment prevents indefinite detention of Americans

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An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed Thursday, Nov. 29, that prevents indefinite detention of Americans.

The amendment was introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Wednesday and passed by a vote of 67-29 with bipartisan support.

Brian Phillips, a spokesperson for Lee, said the inspiration came from last year’s NDAA discussions when some senators attempted including language that upheld indefinite detention.

Last year during discussion Lee and Feinstein, as well as others, did not agree with the provision. They were successful in preventing express language allowing indefinite detention but were unable to pass an amendment stating the opposite, Phillips said.

Lee has spent the last year gaining support for this amendment and was successful when it came time to vote once more.

“He’s done good work in terms of convincing his colleagues of the constitutional case against the indefinite detention of American citizens,” Phillips said.

Phillips said inspiration for this amendment can be linked back to the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. Under that resolution, the federal government was given the power to take measures to protect American citizens. After several court cases, the courts upheld the government’s power to indefinitely detain Americans.

Peter Blair, Sen. Lee’s military legislative assistant, said the amendment came down to last year’s discussions.

“In last year’s National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 there was a provision in there that stated that any person, which includes American citizens, could be held indefinitely, and Sen. Lee felt that that went against the Sixth Amendment and the Constitution in general.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was one of the 29 senators who voted against the amendment.

Matt Harakal, press secretary to Sen. Hatch, said, “The Supreme Court in two cases made it clear that detainees have the writ of habeus corpus. So any American held as a detainee has the ability to contest their detention under the Supreme Court decisions,” Harakal said. “What the legislation of the bill does is just codify the Supreme Court rulings. So that’s really the gist of why he did not support the amendment.”

Despite opposition from members of his own party, Lee views this amendment as a protection of civil liberties.

In a press release, Lee said, “Once again we prove that increasing security does not have to result in diminished liberty. Today we have reaffirmed our constitutional values and shown we are committed to being both free and safe.”

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