Leahy, Holder Reaffirm Need to Strip Problematic Proposals from Defense Spending Bill

19 Military Leaders Urge Senators to Stand Strong Against Provisions

Washington, DC – During this morning’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing featuring testimony from Attorney General Eric Holder, he reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s objections to limiting law enforcement’s ability to capture, hold and prosecute suspected terrorists. The response came at the prompting of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a leading opponent of provisions contained within the defense spending bill to do just that.

“Congressional efforts to limit the use of law enforcement tools to handle suspected terrorists are unnecessary and threaten national security. When the top law enforcement official in the nation is telling Congress that, members should listen. When retired military leaders, interrogators and other national security experts caution Congress against expanding the military’s role in counterterrorism efforts, it should listen. It’s time for the Senate to stop playing politics and strip these provisions from the defense authorization bill,” said Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn. Just today, a group of 19 of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders urged Senators who have voiced opposition to the proposals to hold firm in their effort to strip the troubling language from the defense spending bill. At the heart of that letter and Senator Leahy’s question are controversial detention provisions incorporated into the 666 page defense bill during a closed session of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The proposals include one to authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge individuals – including American citizens apprehended on U.S. soil – who are suspected of involvement with terrorism, as well as a provision to force law enforcement officials to transfer a large category of terrorism suspects into military custody. Human Rights First has noted that the proposals would not only disrupt ongoing terrorism investigations, but would also undermine U.S. national security by forcing the military to take on counterterrorism roles that it is not prepared for and does not want. Later in the hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pushed Holder to deliver within 30 days a plan on how the Obama Administration plans to proceed with the detention of suspected terrorists. According to Osburn, the call is indicative of efforts to tie the administration’s hands with regard to the handling of these sensitive cases. “It’s time to stop trying to paint the Obama Administration into a corner and start to let the counterterrorism professionals do their job,” said Osburn. “We know our federal courts are one of the most reliable tools we have in our nation’s counterterrorism efforts. Instead of trying to block their use, Congress should be working with the administration to come up with a plan to get these cases moving.” According to Human Rights First, the Attorney General’s remarks – as well as Senator Leahy’s statements – represent an emerging consensus that the controversial detainee provisions would harm, rather than help, counterterrorism efforts. Majority Leader Reid has stated that he would not bring the defense authorization bill to the floor unless these controversial provisions were addressed. Shortly after that announcement, 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. For more information about today’s hearing or to speak with Osburn, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-370-3323.


Published on November 8, 2011


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