Last year, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. It is an important piece of legislation that authorizes the budget authority of the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.
Generally, it is a positive measure that includes a 1.6 percent pay increase for our troops, keeps the military health care plan affordable, and includes needed anti-mine and anti-IED technology.
There is, however, a highly disturbing flaw in the legislation that needs to be rectified. It contains language that leaves open the possibility that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents could be indefinitely detained without charge or trial.
Under Section 1031 of the act, the president would have the absolute power to arrest and detain citizens of the United States without their being informed of any criminal charges, without a trial on the merits of those charges, and without any of the due process requirements mandated by the Constitution.
In fact, the indefinite detention section of the act not only flies in the face of due process guarantees, it gives the president powers he does not need to protect national security or fight terrorism.
Even though Obama signed the act, he wrote a statement saying, "I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, Ibelieve that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation."
His successor might feel otherwise under pressure of a terrorist attack or threat.
Fortunately, there is legislation in both the Senate and House of Representatives that would correct the NDAA by removing the indefinite detention section.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has taken the lead, introducing the Due Process Guarantee Act (SB 2003). She said, "We must clarify U.S. law to state unequivocally that the government cannot indefinitely detain American citizens inside this country without trial or charge."
The NDAA, as it now stands, converts America into a war zone and turns every American into a potential suspected terrorist, with no due- process rights.
In the House, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is sponsoring an identical companion bill, HR 3702. It, too, would make sure that all U.S. citizens and those legally permanent on U.S. soil must be charged or tried and cannot be detained indefinitely.
Obama, the secretary of defense and the directors of the CIA and FBI all oppose indefinite detention. Garamendi pointed out that those who receive the most up-to-date intelligence sit at the highest levels of our government, some of whom have served both Republicans and Democrats. They believe that we do not need an indefinite detention policy to keep us safe. Neither do we.
There is no good reason for any member of Congress to oppose a bill that removes an unnecessary attack on due process rights and upholds basic liberties protected by the Constitution.