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Congressman Sherman Pushes to Protect Citizens from Ugly Doctrine

Location: Washington, DC


July 9, 2004

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Brad Sherman offered an amendment yesterday to prevent the government from indefinitely detaining anyone arrested while on U.S. territory as an "enemy combatant," a designation the government has used to justify indefinite detention without criminal charges or other legal basis.

"Our government should not be able to indefinitely detain Americans, apprehended here in the United States, without charging them with a crime," Sherman said. "Whatever you think of the so-called enemy combatant doctrine and its application to those captured on a foreign battlefield, under no circumstances should it be applied to those arrested in America and used as the sole basis for their detention."

"We are a nation of laws, seeking to help bring the rule of law to countries where tyranny reigns - and we have to be above reproach. The notion that someone can be apprehended here in America and essentially have no rights is abhorrent."

While the Supreme Court has ruled recently that detainees have access to the courts and that U.S. citizens have a right to a hearing on the issue of whether or not they are in fact an enemy combatant, it is unclear right now how valuable these limited rights will be. Sherman argued Congress should act now to ensure that the doctrine, at a minimum, is not used domestically in the future.

Sherman's amendment would have prohibited funds in the spending bill for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and State from being utilized to hold beyond 30 days anyone who is apprehended on U.S. soil and held solely because they have been classified an enemy combatant.

Several Republican Congressman defended the purported right of the Bush Administration to detain someone for an unlimited period of time, without official charges, and incommunicado. The amendment failed on a voice vote.

In a separate amendment, Sherman voted in favor of an amendment to prohibit the government from compelling libraries and booksellers to divulge the reading habits of their customers under the Patriot Act. The House Republican leadership held this vote open almost twice the customary time-limit in an effort to change the outcome in their favor. They were successful, and this amendment failed on a tie vote.

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