WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, U.S. Rep Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) along with Rep. John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), introduced H.R. 5936, The Civil Liberties Act of 2012 to prevent indefinite detention on American soil. This bipartisan legislation, ensuring everyone has access to a lawyer and fair judicial process, was cosponsored by HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) and Justin Amash (R-MI).
The bill would clarify ambiguous language in the FY ‘12 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which became law last December, allowing U.S. military authorities to indefinitely detain an individual suspected of supporting terrorism. This loophole could prevent a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or a person in the United States for travel or business from having their day in court. This would violate the civil liberties clearly established in our Constitution. The 5th Amendment states that “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” There are no limitations and no exceptions to this law.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter stated, "This legislation protects the rule of law when we need it most. Our civilian justice system works, and I trust our law enforcement, our prosecutors and our courts to administer justice fairly in terrorism cases.”
"Anyone can be falsely accused of a crime. Everyone accused of a crime deserves a fair trial and access to a lawyer," Congressman Garamendi said. "The Civil Liberties Act of 2012 makes sure that participating in a protest, searching the web for 'Al-Qaeda', or attending a worship service will never lead to a tragic miscarriage of justice."
H.R. 5936 would make sure that all individuals accused of being associated with terrorist organizations will be transferred immediately for charge and trial to federal courts, established by Article 3 of the Constitution. Over 400 terrorists have been successfully charged and tried before Article 3 courts.
Garamendi continued, “In addition to securing an essential component of our freedom, this legislation would reject the legal limbo of indefinite detention, and bring to justice anyone who would do us harm. We can keep America safe AND protect our civil liberties.”
"To give the President the power to take away a person's freedom and lock them up, potentially simply based on allegations, without due process, and without the civil liberties protected by our Constitution, is an extraordinary step,” said Ranking Member Adam Smith. “Due process rights are designed to protect the innocent and I will continue to work to ensure that we rein in executive powers and protect the Constitution and all those to which it applies."
“Our Constitution does not permit the federal government to detain American citizens indefinitely without charge or trial,” said Congressman Justin Amash. “I strongly believe in protecting the country’s security and equipping our Armed Forces with the tools they need to defeat our enemies. But the American people cannot support measures that, in the name of security, violate our constitutional rights.”
The text of this legislation is identical to an amendment submitted to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY ‘13 by Representatives Smith, Amash, and Garamendi. A copy of the text is linked here. For additional information on this legislation, please consult the online "Due Process, Civil Liberties Resource Kit."