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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RISCH. First of all, let me say I think there has been an adequate compromise that has been reached, and we are to have a side-by-side to vote on which will give everybody the opportunity to express themselves. Let me say that every single one of us on this floor has a goal to protect the rights of U.S. citizens.

This country was founded by people who had just gone through some very difficult times with a government that was very oppressive on them, and they wrote the Constitution specifically to protect themselves and to protect individuals from the government. Those constitutional provisions today are as good as they were then. Every single one of us wants to see that American citizens are protected; that is, protections that take place in the case of criminal cases.

In the case of a war, in the case where a U.S. citizen joins enemy combatants and fights against the United States, there is a different standard--although a delicate division--that exists. If we look at the provisions of section 1031, where covered persons are defined, it is very clear it applies only to people who participated in the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States, and it applies to people who are part of it or who have substantially supported al-Qaida and the Taliban or its associated forces and have actually committed a belligerent act or have directly participated in the hostilities.

This is drawn very carefully and very narrowly so a U.S. citizen can--as my good friend from Kentucky always says--be able to file a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. district court and have the U.S. district judge determine whether a person is actually an enemy combatant. If that U.S. district judge turns it down, that person does not necessarily go free. The U.S. Government can then charge them with treason or any one of a number of crimes, but they will be tried in the U.S. district court.

On the other hand, if they are found to be an enemy combatant by a U.S. district judge whose decision is reviewable by the circuit court and if the Supreme Court chooses--by the Supreme Court, if they are found to be the enemy combatant, then they will, indeed, be subject to this.

So this has been very narrow. People who are watching this and who are concerned about the civil liberties of U.S. citizens, as I am, as people in Idaho are, as people in every State in America are, under those circumstances, those people will be well protected. We will have the amendment here that everybody will have the opportunity to express themselves on.

I will yield the floor.


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