WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 12, 2004) - Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), author of the Detention of Enemy Combatants Act, released a statement regarding the Pentagon's decision to allow Jose Padilla, designated by the Administration as an 'enemy combatant,' access to legal counsel:
"I support the Administration's decision to allow Americans detained as unlawful enemy combatants access to counsel. It is not a matter of executive discretion, however, but rather the U.S. Constitution, which precludes holding an American citizen indefinitely, without access to legal counsel. The federal government must have the authority to detain terrorists as "enemy combatants" to protect the public, gather intelligence and safeguard national security. However, we must ensure that the accused are afforded due process rights guaranteed to all Americans under the Constitution. No one branch of government should have the sole power to determine whether to incarcerate an American, for how long and without any form of judicial review or access to counsel.
"I introduced legislation in February 2003 explicitly addressing these concerns and called for the Administration to establish clear standards and criteria for labeling citizens as enemy combatants, procedures guaranteeing timely judicial review and Congressional oversight over all detentions of U.S. citizens.
"After our experience with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, we must be vigilant to protect against the government's decision to detain, perhaps indefinitely, any American without adequate review of the basis of its decision. While we must grant broad latitude to our armed forces when it comes to protecting national security, American citizens should not be held indefinitely upon the sole determination of one branch of government."
Rep. Schiff introduced the Detention of Enemy Combatants Act (H.R. 1029) on February 26, 2003. The legislation specifically provides that:
· The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, shall establish the standards, procedures and criteria for the labeling and detention of citizens as enemy combatants;
· Clear procedures guaranteeing timely access to judicial review to challenge the basis for a detention and to provide access to counsel will be developed;
· The validity of the detention may be challenged by a writ of habeas corpus; and
· Congress will maintain oversight of detention of U.S. citizens and lawful residents to ensure that such detentions are consistent with Due Process.
Rep. Schiff is the co-founder of the Democratic Study Group on National Security and a member of both the House Judiciary and International Relations Committees. Schiff brings a wealth of experience to this discussion of enemy combatants as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted terrorism and espionage cases, including the first case of an FBI agent indicted for spying against the United States.