Senators McCain And Lieberman Introduce Bill To Authorize Indefinite Detention

March 4, 2010 12:00 am
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Legislation Would Also Create New System Of Interrogation

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WASHINGTON – A bill introduced today in the Senate would hand the government the power to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects without charge or trial, dealing a swift blow to due process and the rule of law.

The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010, introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), would also create an entirely new system of interrogation by requiring intelligence officials to be consulted about how to handle terrorism suspects after their capture. The bill was precipitated by misguided objections to the Obama administration’s correct decision to charge accused Christmas Day attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the criminal court system. The legislation would have a “high value detainee” team, made up of members of different intelligence agencies, interrogate and determine whether alleged terrorist suspects are “unprivileged enemy belligerents.” If so, and if the suspect is then charged, the legislation would mandate the use of the discredited and unconstitutional military commissions.

The American Civil Liberties Union vigorously opposes the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act is a direct attack on the Constitution.

“Indefinite detention flies in the face of American values and violates this country’s commitment to the rule of law. Over the last decade, we have seen how disregard for the rule of law has disastrous results for America’s standing in the world, and it is unfathomable that Senators McCain and Lieberman would forget so recent a lesson. We must forever put an end to the false and dangerous assumption that sacrificing our principles makes us safe. We should never conclude that our ideals are not strong enough to withstand these threats.

“Contrary to what some in Congress may believe, there is no significant class of prisoners who simultaneously cannot be prosecuted or safely released. If evidence is too unreliable to prosecute someone, it is certainly too flimsy to detain them for the rest of their lives without an opportunity to defend themselves.”

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

“Like indefinite detention, using military commissions is an abandonment of American values. Our time-tested federal courts have proven themselves capable of handling terrorism cases while upholding due process. Federal courts have produced over 300 terrorism-related convictions while the discredited military commissions have produced only three. Using the commissions will result in years of delay due to legal challenges and will yield results mired in doubt. Americans deserve better.

“When it comes to terrorism, some lawmakers continue to underestimate the competence of our criminal justice system. Our criminal justice system has proved repeatedly that it is capable of obtaining reliable intelligence from terrorism suspects, while that has not always been the case when we throw detainees into secret detention and discard all the rules. Denying due process rights to our enemies defies the values we are fighting to protect. The Constitution is not optional despite the efforts of these senators to render it so.”
More information on why terrorism suspects should be tried in federal court is available here:

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