Momentum Against Detention Provisions Builds as Udall, Webb Amendment Comes to Floor

Washington, DC – As the Senate prepares to consider an amendment cosponsored by Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Jim Webb (D-VA) to strip troubling provisions from the defense authorization bill, momentum is building against proposals within the legislation that undermine national security. “I haven’t been able to find one counterterrorism professional or national security expert that supports these provisions,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “Opposition is bi-partisan, loud, and growing. The time has come to finally strip these controversial provisions from the bill. The Udall amendment provides the path forward to do that.” At issue are three sections of the defense authorization bill. One section would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge individuals – including American citizens apprehended on U.S. soil – who are suspected of involvement with terrorism. A second section would force law enforcement officials to transfer a large category of terrorism suspects into military custody, against the advice of counterterrorism professionals. A third section would further institute restrictions on the transfer of cleared Guantanamo detainees. “Even with the revised requirements, mandatory military custody for terrorism suspects is a bad idea that’s likely to undermine our ability to gather actionable intelligence information. Ask any counterterrorism professional whether forcing the transfer of terrorism suspects into military custody is a good idea and there’s near unanimous agreement: it’s a terrible idea,” said Joe Navarro, a retired 25-year veteran agent of the FBI with expertise in counterterrorism and counterintelligence. In a letter released yesterday, Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller echoed that concern and expressed opposition to the legislation’s controversial mandatory military custody provision. Despite claims by the bill’s draftsmen that they had fixed all the problems associated with this section, Director Mueller said that it “may adversely impact our ability to continue ongoing terrorism investigations before or after arrest, derive intelligence from those investigations, and may raise extraneous issues in any future prosecution” of terrorism suspects. Director Mueller’s opposition to the provision follows similar concerns raised by a growing number of national security experts who have examined the issue, including Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson, Obama Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and 16 former interrogators and counterterrorism professionals. In addition, yesterday, 26 of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders urged Senators to support the Udall amendment to strip the troubling provisions and to vote against an amendment introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that could revive torture or other abusive interrogation tactics by superseding the Obama anti-torture executive order and authorizing interrogation tactics beyond those authorized by the Army Field Manual. The amendment sponsored by Senators Udall and Webb will likely be voted on today. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the defense authorization bill if it contains the controversial detention provisions.


Published on November 29, 2011


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