Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Conference Report on H.R. 1540, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I thank my friend from Utah for yielding the time, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, it's been more than 10 years since the attacks of September 11. We have fought two wars and have engaged in military action in numerous other countries. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, and many more have been wounded. We have spent more than $1 trillion. Osama bin Laden is dead, and the Obama administration officials have declared that al Qaeda is ``operationally ineffective.''

Here at home, we've reformed our national government, compromised our civil liberties, spent billions on a surveillance state, and created a culture of paranoia in which, even in the last few days, a reality TV show about Muslim Americans is subjected to a campaign of hate and intolerance.

Before proceeding, let me commend the chairman and the ranking member of the relevant committee of jurisdiction that put this package together. I am fundamentally opposed to many aspects of it, but I am in tremendous agreement with their bipartisan efforts and the staffs of both of them and the other committee members for putting forth the effort to bring us to this point of discussion.

We should take this opportunity at this moment in our history to seriously and carefully deliberate our Nation's counterterrorism efforts. We ought to consider which policies are effective and which, in the end, only create more anti-American sentiment. We ought to consider which policies align with our national values and which, instead, undermine them. We ought to consider whether we should continue using the full thrust of the United States Armed Forces in country after country or whether a more nuanced approach might better serve our needs.

Unfortunately, the legislation before us does not attempt to answer these questions. Instead, it commits us to dive even further down the road of fear. It commits us to more war and more wasteful spending, and it commits us to ceding our freedoms and liberties on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing. This legislation erodes our society and our national security by militarizing our justice system and empowering the President to detain anyone in the United States, including American citizens, without charge or trial, without due process.

If this is going to continue to be the direction of our country, Mr. Speaker, we don't need a Democratic Party or a Republican Party or an Occupy Wall Street party or a Tea Party; we need a Mayflower party. If we are going to undermine the foundational principles of this great country, then we might as well sail away to someplace else.

This legislation establishes an authority for open-ended war anywhere in the world and against anyone. It commits us to seeing a ``terrorist'' in anyone who ever criticizes the United States in any country, including this one. The lack of definitions as to what constitutes ``substantial support'' and ``associated forces'' of al Qaeda and the Taliban mean that anyone could be accused of terrorism. Congress has not tried to curtail civil liberties like this since the McCarthy era; but here we are today, trying to return to an era of arbitrary justice, witch-hunts, and fearmongering.

While this measure includes an exemption for United States citizens, it does not protect them from indefinite detention. In one fell swoop, we have set up a situation where American citizens could have their Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendment rights violated on mere suspicions. And by placing suspected terrorists solely in the hands of the military, these provisions deny civilian law enforcement the ability to conduct effective counterterrorism efforts.

The fact of the matter is that our law enforcement agencies and civilian courts have proven over and over again that they are more than capable of handling counterterrorism cases. I had the distinct privilege in this country of serving as a Federal judge shepherding cases and protecting the interests of the United States and vital security interests during that period of time. And in every one of those cases--some 11 over the period of 9 3/4 years--all of the defendants were found guilty, and that is before 2001.

More than 400 suspected terrorists have already been tried in the Federal courts of the United States of America. We should not break something that already works. The idea that the executive branch's current powers are inadequate to fight terrorism is proven false by 10 years of successful counterterrorism efforts. The idea that the President--any President--needs a whole new expansion of his--and I hope one day soon--her powers is just wrong.

Most national security experts, Democrats and Republicans, are telling us not to adopt this language. Many officials responsible for our homeland security are telling us not to adopt this language. A lot of our military leaders are telling us not to adopt this language, Mr. Speaker. This legislation goes too far.

We spend billions of dollars every year on counterterrorism, but we weaken those efforts by tossing aside our own system of justice. We tell the American public that we are fighting overseas in order to protect our freedoms, but then we pass legislation that undermines those very same freedoms here in the people's House and at home.

And we tell the rest of the world to emulate our democratic traditions and our rule of law, but we disregard those values in a mad rush to find out how we can pretend to be the toughest on terrorism.

We won't defeat terrorism by using the military to lock up innocent people for the rest of their lives on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing. We will not defeat terrorism by claiming the entire world as a battlefield. And we will not defeat terrorism by replacing our rule of law with reckless, uncontrolled, and unaccountable powers.

Mr. Speaker, we need to have a more considered debate about the best way to conduct our defense and counterterrorism policies. This bill contains over $600 billion in spending, runs to over 1,000 pages, and is coming to the floor less than 48 hours after it was filed.

While the detainee provisions in this legislation might have received the most attention in the last few days, there are plenty of other critical provisions that Members may have opinions about, and that's why on these kinds of measures we should have open rules.

I realize that I've said that Congress--and we are proving it at the end of this session--has a bad case of deadline-itis. But my friends in the Republican majority don't only have deadline-itis, they have deadline-ophila.

Yesterday we considered a poorly conceived extenders package that will harm the middle class and weaken our economy. Today we are considering controversial language in a defense bill that sets a dangerous precedent and will potentially harm the civil liberties of American citizens.

I appreciate that the Republican majority, many of whom are my friends, don't want their holiday season ruined by having to work. But that doesn't mean we have to ruin everyone else's holiday season by passing bad laws.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I thank my friend from Utah for yielding the time, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, it's been more than 10 years since the attacks of September 11. We have fought two wars and have engaged in military action in numerous other countries. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, and many more have been wounded. We have spent more than $1 trillion. Osama bin Laden is dead, and the Obama administration officials have declared that al Qaeda is ``operationally ineffective.''

Here at home, we've reformed our national government, compromised our civil liberties, spent billions on a surveillance state, and created a culture of paranoia in which, even in the last few days, a reality TV show about Muslim Americans is subjected to a campaign of hate and intolerance.

Before proceeding, let me commend the chairman and the ranking member of the relevant committee of jurisdiction that put this package together. I am fundamentally opposed to many aspects of it, but I am in tremendous agreement with their bipartisan efforts and the staffs of both of them and the other committee members for putting forth the effort to bring us to this point of discussion.

We should take this opportunity at this moment in our history to seriously and carefully deliberate our Nation's counterterrorism efforts. We ought to consider which policies are effective and which, in the end, only create more anti-American sentiment. We ought to consider which policies align with our national values and which, instead, undermine them. We ought to consider whether we should continue using the full thrust of the United States Armed Forces in country after country or whether a more nuanced approach might better serve our needs.

Unfortunately, the legislation before us does not attempt to answer these questions. Instead, it commits us to dive even further down the road of fear. It commits us to more war and more wasteful spending, and it commits us to ceding our freedoms and liberties on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing. This legislation erodes our society and our national security by militarizing our justice system and empowering the President to detain anyone in the United States, including American citizens, without charge or trial, without due process.

If this is going to continue to be the direction of our country, Mr. Speaker, we don't need a Democratic Party or a Republican Party or an Occupy Wall Street party or a Tea Party; we need a Mayflower party. If we are going to undermine the foundational principles of this great country, then we might as well sail away to someplace else.

This legislation establishes an authority for open-ended war anywhere in the world and against anyone. It commits us to seeing a ``terrorist'' in anyone who ever criticizes the United States in any country, including this one. The lack of definitions as to what constitutes ``substantial support'' and ``associated forces'' of al Qaeda and the Taliban mean that anyone could be accused of terrorism. Congress has not tried to curtail civil liberties like this since the McCarthy era; but here we are today, trying to return to an era of arbitrary justice, witch-hunts, and fearmongering.

While this measure includes an exemption for United States citizens, it does not protect them from indefinite detention. In one fell swoop, we have set up a situation where American citizens could have their Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendment rights violated on mere suspicions. And by placing suspected terrorists solely in the hands of the military, these provisions deny civilian law enforcement the ability to conduct effective counterterrorism efforts.

The fact of the matter is that our law enforcement agencies and civilian courts have proven over and over again that they are more than capable of handling counterterrorism cases. I had the distinct privilege in this country of serving as a Federal judge shepherding cases and protecting the interests of the United States and vital security interests during that period of time. And in every one of those cases--some 11 over the period of 9 3/4 years--all of the defendants were found guilty, and that is before 2001.

More than 400 suspected terrorists have already been tried in the Federal courts of the United States of America. We should not break something that already works. The idea that the executive branch's current powers are inadequate to fight terrorism is proven false by 10 years of successful counterterrorism efforts. The idea that the President--any President--needs a whole new expansion of his--and I hope one day soon--her powers is just wrong.

Most national security experts, Democrats and Republicans, are telling us not to adopt this language. Many officials responsible for our homeland security are telling us not to adopt this language. A lot of our military leaders are telling us not to adopt this language, Mr. Speaker. This legislation goes too far.

We spend billions of dollars every year on counterterrorism, but we weaken those efforts by tossing aside our own system of justice. We tell the American public that we are fighting overseas in order to protect our freedoms, but then we pass legislation that undermines those very same freedoms here in the people's House and at home.

And we tell the rest of the world to emulate our democratic traditions and our rule of law, but we disregard those values in a mad rush to find out how we can pretend to be the toughest on terrorism.

We won't defeat terrorism by using the military to lock up innocent people for the rest of their lives on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing. We will not defeat terrorism by claiming the entire world as a battlefield. And we will not defeat terrorism by replacing our rule of law with reckless, uncontrolled, and unaccountable powers.

Mr. Speaker, we need to have a more considered debate about the best way to conduct our defense and counterterrorism policies. This bill contains over $600 billion in spending, runs to over 1,000 pages, and is coming to the floor less than 48 hours after it was filed.

While the detainee provisions in this legislation might have received the most attention in the last few days, there are plenty of other critical provisions that Members may have opinions about, and that's why on these kinds of measures we should have open rules.

I realize that I've said that Congress--and we are proving it at the end of this session--has a bad case of deadline-itis. But my friends in the Republican majority don't only have deadline-itis, they have deadline-ophila.

Yesterday we considered a poorly conceived extenders package that will harm the middle class and weaken our economy. Today we are considering controversial language in a defense bill that sets a dangerous precedent and will potentially harm the civil liberties of American citizens.

I appreciate that the Republican majority, many of whom are my friends, don't want their holiday season ruined by having to work. But that doesn't mean we have to ruin everyone else's holiday season by passing bad laws.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Speaker, the issues and accusations that were brought up by the gentleman from Florida will be something that we will address in the course of this debate, but I wish to do this in somewhat of a regular order. There are other issues, as he said, that are significant.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

In the mad rush to get home for Christmas, we're delivering an early gift to those who criticize our country for failing to live up to our ideals.

With this legislation, we're undermining over 200 years of constitutional protections. We're returning American society to an age when an all-powerful executive can command unaccountable power over people's lives.

To codify in law the power of the President to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial is an egregious affront to our Nation's system of justice. Franz Kafka wrote about it years ago, and it has been known as Kafkaesque.

Ten years after the attacks of September 11--10 years of war, of runaway defense spending, of the PATRIOT Act, torture, and extraordinary rendition--and we're still responding to the terrorist threat with a knee-jerk reaction, devoid of reason and common sense.

This legislation says that our law enforcement agencies do not work; that our judiciary, our court system does not work. This legislation says that the President can, alone, decide who is guilty or innocent.

I would remind my friends that Barack Obama may not be the President all the time. But no President should have untrammeled authority to determine innocence or guilt. It puts the lie to the judicial branch of our government and to the legislative branch of our government. This legislation goes too far.

If the Republican majority was serious about having this body carefully consider our Nation's defense policies, Members would have had more than 2 days to review the more than 1,000 pages covering $600 billion in spending.

I urge my colleagues to vote against this rule and the underlying legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top