House Votes to Expand Military Authority Despite Bipartisan Opposition
Washington, D.C.— The House of Representatives this afternoon voted on several controversial amendments to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The House of Representatives rejected Amendment 50 supported by a significant bipartisan coalition of members, which would have removed the bill’s Authorization for Use of Military Force. The new AUMF gives the President sole discretion to determine when to deploy troops to fight terrorism anywhere in the world. The House of Representatives also rejected Amendment 42, which would have restored executive authority in determining, based on individual determinations in each case and on national security interests, whether to prosecute terror suspects held at Guantanamo in federal court or before military commissions. Amendment 42 would have also untied the President’s hands in repatriating innocent men cleared for release still held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The House of Representatives also voted for an amendment introduced by Rep. Buchanan that vastly expands the jurisdiction of military commissions by requiring all foreign terror suspects be treated as enemy combatants and tried by military commissions. C. Dixon Osburn, Director of Law & Security for Human Rights First stated, “The House of Representatives voted today on measures that will significantly weaken our counter terrorism operations by eliminating important checks and balances and hamstringing detention and prosecution.” “The new Authorization for Use of Military Force expands the war from nations and armed organizations who attacked us on 9/11 to a global war against any person who ‘supports’ hostilities against the United States. Notably, the new AUMF cuts out Congress’ role to declare wars, unwisely ceding exclusive authority to the President.” Osburn noted that in contrast to the AUMF authorizing the war in Iraq, in which Congress held fifteen hearings to consider the issue, Congress has not held even one hearing to consider this expansion of war. “The House also reauthorized for another year restrictions on the ability of United States federal courts to prosecute terror suspects held at Guantanamo charged with crimes, even though federal courts have proven more adept and agile in handling terror prosecutions that military tribunals,” Osburn noted. “In addition, the House restricted for another year the Administration’s ability to repatriate innocent men cleared for release who remain trapped at Guantanamo because of political interference,” Osburn said. Osburn stated, “By shifting all foreign terror suspects into military commissions, the House would ensure that allied countries are less likely to extradite criminal suspects to United States into a system that is considered illegitimate. That means that terror suspects around the world could go free because of Congress’ shortsightedness,” Osburn said. The House vote today does not end the debate. The Senate is next expected to consider the National Defense Authorization Act in mid-June. In a Statement of Administration Position published on Tuesday, President Obama threatened to veto the defense bill if it contained the current AUMF or the Guantanamo restrictions.