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Hey Chairman Levin, the Michigan House Says You Should Fix the NDAA

Merissa Kovach,
Field Organizer,
ACLU of Michigan
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December 11, 2012

As Michigan continues to navigate the ugly partisan shenanigans surrounding the so-called “right to work” legislation currently being jammed through the legislature, at least one beacon of light deserves recognition.

Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives passed House Bill 5768, legislation that rejects Michigan’s cooperation with the indefinite detention and mandatory military detention provisions of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was authored by Michigan’s own Senator Carl Levin (D), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and signed into law by President Obama one year ago this month.

HB 5768, sponsored by Rep, Tom McMillin (R), prevents state cooperation with federal agents attempting to detain people without due process in Michigan, declaring that no state official or agency “shall aid an agency of the armed forces of the United States in any investigation, prosecution, or detention of any person pursuant to section 1021 of the national defense authorization act…”

So why is this legislation such a big deal?

The NDAA is a historic threat because it codified indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. It permits the president – and all future presidents – to order the military to imprison indefinitely civilians captured far from any battlefield without charge or trial. This kind of sweeping power is completely at odds with our American values, violates the Constitution and international law, and corrodes our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Bad though the NDAA was, it did not authorize military detention within the United States. Indeed, it would be illegal and unconstitutional for any president to use the military to lock up anyone picked up in the U.S. without charge or trial. At the same time, we know that President George W. Bush tried it twice during his presidency, and some important senators still think indefinite detention without charge or trial within the United States is a good idea. Through HB 5768, legislators in Michigan squarely reject the view that indefinite detention can or should be used in the United States.

Additionally, just last week, the U.S. Senate passed the Feinstein Amendment to this year’s NDAA. Superficially, the amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) looks like it addresses the same problems as HB 5768, but it in fact causes harm by reinforcing the false and discriminatory notion that due process protections are only afforded to some – not all – persons within the United States. HB 5768 is clear that it applies to all people in the U.S. It’s fair, and it’s what the Constitution requires. The Feinstein Amendment is not yet law – it still has to be reconciled with the federal House of Representatives’ NDAA bill for this year. In their negotiations, Congress should follow Michigan’s lead and protect all people within U.S. borders.

This issue is so important that HB 5768 passed with unanimous, bi-partisan support by a vote of 107-0. Credit and gratitude is due to the bill sponsor Rep. McMillin and bill co-sponsor Rep. Jeff Irwin (D), as their partnership and leadership was instrumental to the passage of this important legislation.

HB 5768 will now go on to the Senate where it will hopefully be passed and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder before the end of the current legislative session.

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