Senator Rand Paul has made it known that he is interested at a run for the presidency in 2016 and he continues to be one of a few in the Senate who will stand for the Constitution. Paul has spoken out numerous times against the National Defense Authorization Act's Section 1021 which deals with "indefinite detention" of American citizens. Now he has an amendment ready for a vote and is threatening a filibuster in order to obtain that vote.
Paul’s amendment takes a new tack to curb the military’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism by affirming they have the right to a speedy trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment.
His push to change the indefinite detention laws for U.S. citizens follows a contentious fight last year where liberal Senate Democrats waged an unsuccessful attempt to scale back the detention laws before an 11th-hour, watered-down compromise was ultimately reached.
Paul’s filibuster threat could throw into flux what’s already been a long-winding road to the floor for the Defense authorization bill, which Armed Services Committee leaders have been clamoring to get on the floor since it passed out of committee in May.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that he would move to the Defense bill after the Thanksgiving holiday, and would allow for an open amendment process with a limited number of amendments managed by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The day after Reid said the Senate would move to the defense bill, however, Paul put a hold on the legislation, a move Paul took because there was not an agreement to vote on his amendment, according to his office.
The text of Paul's amendment is simple and to the point:
A citizen of the United States captured or arrested in the United States and detained by the Armed Forces of the United States pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The point of Paul's amendment is to preserve the rights of U.S. citizens guaranteed to them under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Joe Wolverton, of The New American, believes the amendment doesn't go far enough. He points out, "There is not one word of repeal or abolition or revocation of the indefinite detention of Americans from the NDAA."
By a vote of 238-182, members of Congress rejected the amendment offered by Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) that would have repealed the indefinite detention provision of the NDAA. The Fiscal Year 2013 NDAA yet retains the indefinite detention provisions, as well as the section permitting prisoners to be transferred from civilian jurisdiction to the custody of the military.
"The frightening thing here is that the government is claiming the power under the Afghanistan authorization for use of military force as a justification for entering American homes to grab people, indefinitely detain them and not give them a charge or trial," Representative Amash said during House debate.
Speaking in support of his amendment, Representative Smith reminded his colleagues that the NDAA granted to the president “extraordinary” powers and divested the American people of key civil liberties, as well as divesting civilian courts of their constitutional jurisdiction.
Smith pointed out that there was no need to transfer suspects into military custody as “hundreds” of terrorists have been tried in federal courts since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
We are now in a real pickle. The Republican party had plenty of opportunity to stand up against the NDAA and it's indefinite detention section. The Georgia State Convention was ready to stand against the section and anyone that signed or supported the NDAA, but when they realized that their potential nominee this year supported it, they withdrew. The RNC platform committee took it up, but ended up utterly rejecting to take a stand on it, presumably because of similar understanding concerning their nominee and the fact that some believed this was not a major concern.
Hopefully if Paul makes the point enough times he will gain support for his amendment from other Senators, though what needs to happen is that the entire indefinite detention section needs to be repealed, not amended.