From my Congressman:
January 5, 2012
Dear Mr. X,
Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. I appreciate hearing from you.
As you may know, the National Defense Authorization Act authorizes military appropriations and activities for the Department of Defense and sets troop levels for Fiscal Year 2012. Defense authorization bills are passed every year and are vital for the military to function. This past May, my colleagues and I passed H.R. 1540, the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act, in the House. On December 1st, the Senate passed its version of the bill, S. 1867, by a vote of 93-7.
The Senate version of this legislation was different from the House version, and concerns were raised about Sections 1031 and 1032, which deal with the detainment of enemy combatants as part of the ongoing war against al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and the Taliban. As a nation, we must maintain the civil liberties of all Americans during a time of war. The major concern raised was whether American citizens, especially those captured on the battlefield, could be detained indefinitely or not. That said, members of al-Qaeda are not ordinary criminals, nor do they qualify for Prisoner of War status under Article IV of the Geneva Convention. Instead, captured personnel affiliated with al-Qaeda are enemy combatants who deliberately target civilians, do not obey the laws of war, and have never signed nor agreed to the terms of the Geneva Convention. This is the designation that has been historically applied by the United States government to those who operate outside the laws of war (pirates, spies, saboteurs, etc), and is in full compliance with our Geneva Convention obligations.
On December 14th, in a bipartisan vote, the House voted 283-136 to pass the FY12 NDAA Conference Report to H.R. 1540. This bill is a revised version of S.1867. The new bill contains language dealing with the treatment of suspected terrorists and it specifically exempts United States citizens from detainment. In my view, the earlier version was unacceptable in how it described the rights of U.S. citizens. The final version from the conference committee clearly states that these detainee provisions do not extend to U.S. citizens, and was a tremendous improvement. While it would take additional legislation to answer all concerns, such as legislation from the judiciary committee, this bill was not the vehicle to address every single concern. The bill was primarily to fund the troops and to pay for military hardware.
One of the most challenging dilemmas for a free society at war is the balance between maintaining liberty and giving those who protect us the tools they need to be effective. I believe that this bill strikes the proper balance, and as a member of the House Armed Service Committee, I will continue work to ensure that the rights and liberties of American citizens are protected. This legislation passed both the House and Senate by overwhelming bipartisan measures.
Thank you once again for providing me with your concerns. For more information about my efforts on behalf of Colorado and to receive periodic congressional updates, please visit my website at Lamborn.house.gov.
Bottom line? Read the fine print. The various stories floating around threatening detention of U.S. citizens are based on old news, not the new law.
Having said that, the bill does contain additional encroachments on our civil rights.