Human Rights First Praises Senate Defense Spending Letter

Washington, DC – Human Rights First welcomes today’s letter by members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees expressing opposition to controversial detainee provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year of 2012.  The letter, spearheaded by Senators Patrick Leahy(D-Vermont) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California), chairs of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees respectively. The letter makes clear that the while the Senators support the majority of the provisions in the NDAA, they cannot support the detainee provisions because they would “undermine our Nation’s counterterrorism efforts.” Today’s letter comes on the heels of the Senate’s defeat of an amendment to an appropriations measure that would have barred civilian trials for a large category of terrorism suspects. “There is growing opposition to these controversial detainee provisions as more and more Senators realize that over-militarization of our counterterrorism law enforcement efforts would actually undermine our national security,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. The letter took issue with a defense spending provision that would codify the authority to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects without providing trial.  The letter made clear that the provision required further scrutiny to consider whether it was consistent with the laws of war and the Constitution, “especially because it would authorize the indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial.” The Senators also forcefully objected to a provision that would force the military to take custody of a large category of terrorism suspects, noting that the provision is “unwise and will harm our national security.” “Ten years after 9/11, as we prepare to withdraw from some of the nation’s longest and most costly wars, there’s simply no need to further authorize the military hold people without charge,” added Wala. “We rely on law enforcement officials to gather actionable intelligence and ensure that terrorists are put away for their crimes.  Why would we want disrupt that process?” According to Human Rights First, today’s letter represents an emerging consensus that the controversial detainee provisions would harm, rather than help, counterterrorism efforts.  Majority Leader Reid had previously stated that he would not bring the defense authorization bill to the floor unless these controversial provisions were addressed.  Last week, Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson weighed in against the controversial provisions, noting that they would undermine national security.  Meanwhile, analysts from across the political spectrum – including conservative scholars and commentators such as Cully Stimson, Ben Wittes and Robert Chesney – have objected to the over-militarization of counterterrorism law enforcement efforts contemplated by the bill.


Published on October 24, 2011


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