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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEVIN. I very much appreciate Senator Graham's remarks. He said the provision provides for military custody as a beginning or starting point. I wonder whether he would agree that not only is it a beginning point, but it is only for a narrow group of people who are determined to be al-Qaida or their supporters.


Mr. LEVIN. Would the Senator also agree with me that under the provision in the bill, on page 360--we were told that civilian trials are preferable to military trials, preferable to the detention of an unlawful combatant. Does the Senator agree that every one of those options is open to the executive branch and that there is no preference stated, one way or the other, for which approach is taken to people who are detained?


Mr. LEVIN. That is exactly the point. This language, when it is described as language that says somehow or other it works against using civilian courts, is from folks who haven't read our language. The language is explicit. On page 360, lines 3 through 14 in the bill, it says the disposition of a person under the law of war may include the following--and then they talk about detention under the law of war, trial under title X, which is the military trial, transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction; that is, article III courts, and transfer or return of custody to the country of origin. There are no others. There is no preference stated for which of those venues would be selected by the executive branch.


Mr. LEVIN. That is absolutely true. Senator Graham brought to the floor something that was stated this morning by the top lawyer for the Obama administration. I think everybody ought to listen to this. There has been so much confusion about what is in the bill and what isn't. Right now, there is authority to detain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants. That authority exists right now. That is not me saying it, that is the Supreme Court that has said it as recently as Hamdi, when they said there is no bar to this Nation holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant. That is current law. That is the Supreme Court saying that. Then, the Supreme Court also said in Hamdi that they see no reason for drawing a line because a citizen, no less than an alien, can be part of supporting forces hostile to the United States or coalition partners and engaged in armed conflict against the United States.

Top lawyers for the President, this morning, acknowledged this. I wish every one of our colleagues could hear what Senator Graham brought to the floor. Top national security lawyers in the administration say U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida.

Are we then going to adopt an amendment that says to al-Qaida that if you attack us overseas, you are subject to military detention; but if you come here and attack us, you are not subject to military detention?

That is what the first Feinstein amendment says.


Mr. LEVIN. They have, and they have been held accountable.


Mr. LEVIN. There was a naturalized citizen involved in Quirin, who was arrested, as I understand it, on Long Island, and who was charged with crimes involving aiding and supporting the enemy.


Mr. LEVIN. And military detention.


Mr. LEVIN. I do. And the top lawyers of the administration acknowledged as much this morning when they said U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida.

The provisions we are talking about in section 1032, which Senator Feinstein would modify so that it is only al-Qaida abroad who would be subject to this presumption of a military detention, but al-Qaida who come here--and, by the way, American citizens are not even covered under 1032. But the foreign al-Qaida fighters who come here to attack us are not going to be subject to that presumption of military detention which, again, can be waived. It has nothing to do with in what venue they are tried. The administration, the Executive, has total choice on that. It is just whether we are going to start with an assumption if they are determined to be al-Qaida, if they are a foreign al-Qaida person, they sure as heck ought to be subject to that same assumption whether they attack us here or whether they attack us overseas.


Mr. LEVIN. It has been made part of the battlefield without any doubt. On September 11, the war was brought here by al-Qaida. How do we suggest that a foreign al-Qaida member should not be subject to an assumption to begin with, if they are determined to be al-Qaida, that they are going to be detained--that we should not start with that assumption--subject to procedures which the administration adopts. It is totally in their hands. It cannot interfere with a civilian interrogation. It cannot interfere with civilian intelligence. We are very specific about it. The procedures are written by the executive branch. They can try them anywhere they want.

But if they bring a war here--they bring a war here--we are going to create an assumption that they can be subject, and are going to be subject, to military detention.


Mr. LEVIN. If I can interrupt, we have that right abroad against members of al-Qaida. But under this approach we would not be able to assume that military detention at home, again, subject to waiver and subject to all the other protections we have.


Mr. LEVIN. We could do that if we captured them in Afghanistan, but here we are going to be treating them differently. It ought to probably be worse. In other words, people who bring the war here, it seems to me, at a minimum ought to be subject to the same rules of interrogation as they would be if they were captured and part of al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

I don't understand the theory behind this. As a matter of fact, when we adopted the authorization for use of military force, it would seem to me the first people we would want to apply the authority of that authorization to would be al-Qaida members who attack this country.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I understand there are other Senators who may be coming over to speak, and I will be happy to yield the floor whenever that happens because this is the time which is not structured before the scheduled vote at 2 p.m. But if I can continue, then, until another Senator comes to the floor, I want to just expand on this one point which has been made which has to do with whether there is something in this section of ours that would allow our military to patrol our streets. We have heard that.

Well, we have a posse comitatus law in this country. That law embodies a very fundamental principle that our military does not patrol our streets. There is nothing in section 1032 or anywhere else in this bill that would permit our military to patrol our streets.

I think Senator Graham is probably more familiar with what I am going to say than perhaps any of our colleagues. We have a posse comitatus statute in this country. It makes it a crime for the military to execute law enforcement functions inside the United States.

That is unchanged. That law is unchanged by anything in this bill.


Mr. LEVIN. That is why we have very carefully pointed this provision 1032 to a very narrow group of people--people who are determined to be members of or associated with al-Qaida.

Then the question becomes, Well, how is that determination made? What are the procedures for that? The answer is it is left up to the executive branch to determine those procedures. Can there be any interference with the civilian law enforcement folks who are interrogating people that they arrest? If someone tries to blow up Times Square and they are being interrogated by the FBI, is there any interference with that interrogation? None. We explicitly say that there is no such interference.

What about people who are seeking to observe illegal conduct? Is there any interference with that? There is none. We specifically say those procedures shall not interfere with that kind of observation, seeking intelligence. We are not interfering with the civilian prosecution, with the civilian law enforcement at all.

The rules to determine whether someone is a member of al-Qaida are rules which the executive branch is going to write. They can't say, Well, this thing authorizes the interference with civilian interrogation when, as a matter of fact, it specifically says it won't, and the procedures to determine whether somebody is governed by this assumption are going to be written by the FBI and the Justice Department and the executive branch. And, on top of that, there is a waiver.


Mr. LEVIN. That guarantee is called habeas corpus. It has been in our law. It is untouched by anything in this bill. Quite the opposite; we actually enhance the procedures here. The Senator from South Carolina has been very much a part of the effort here.


Mr. LEVIN. With all the risks that are entailed of being misunderstood and all the rest. That is something the Senator from South Carolina has engaged in, to try to see if we can put down what the detention rules are--by the way, ``are''--because as the administration itself said in its statement of administration policy, the authorities codified in this section--authorities codified in section 1031 they are referring to--those authorities already exist.


Mr. LEVIN. Not only is what the Senator said accurate, but we have done something else in this bill. There is an Executive order that was issued some years ago that said there should be a periodic review process for folks who are being detained under the law of war. Because it is so unclear as to when this war ends, there is real concern about that. What do we do about that? So in this bill what we require the executive branch to do--and I am now quoting from section 1035--is to adopt procedures for implementing a periodic review process. Those procedures don't exist now. They are not formalized. So we want to formalize them for the very reason that the Senator from South Carolina addressed: because we want to make sure that since we don't know when this particular war is going to end, it is kind of hard to define it and everyone is concerned about that, you have got to have review procedures. The greatest review procedure of all is habeas corpus. But there are also requirements in the Executive

order for a periodic review process of whether somebody is still a threat or not a threat, for instance. The war may still be going on, but the person may no longer be a threat.

Should there be an opportunity for the person to say that? Well, there should be. There surely should be a regular review process. The Senator from South Carolina has been very much involved in this kind of due process. But what we put into our bill--which would have been eliminated, by the way, if the Udall amendment had been adopted yesterday--is a requirement that the Executive order's procedures be adopted, because so far we haven't seen that.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, we are soon going to be voting on two amendments. The first amendment that is proposed, the first Feinstein amendment restricts the authority that was available and is available currently to the President of the United States under the laws of war. That authority is if an American citizen joins a hostile Army against us, takes up arms against us, that person can be determined to be an enemy combatant. That is not me saying that; that is the Constitution. That is the Supreme Court of the United States in the Hamdi case: ``There is no bar to this Nation's holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant.''

The problem with the Feinstein amendment is that current authority of the President to find and designate an American citizen who attacks us, who comes to our land and attacks us as an enemy combatant would be restricted. We should not restrict the availability of that power in the President. Now we have an alternative. In the second Feinstein amendment, which I ask unanimous consent to be a cosponsor of--


Mr. LEVIN. In the second amendment, we have an alternative because now it would provide the assurance that we are not adversely affecting the rights of the U.S. citizens in this language. Senator McCain, Senator Graham, and I have argued on this floor that there is nothing in our bill--nothing which changes the rights of the U.S. citizens. There was no intent to do it, and we did not do it.

What the second Feinstein amendment provides is that nothing in this section of our bill shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of the U.S. citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.

It makes clear what we have been saying this language already does, which is that it does not affect existing law relative to the right of the executive branch to capture and detain a citizen. If that law is there allowing it, it remains. If, as some argue, the law does not allow that, then it continues that way. We think the law is clear in Hamdi that there is no bar to this Nation holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant, and we make clear whatever the law is. It is unaffected by this language in our bill.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, a number of my colleagues have asked where we are. We are going to have probably three or four more rollcall votes, hopefully including final passage. There is also a package--and everyone should listen to this because at least 70 of us are affected. There is a package of about 70 amendments which have been cleared. However, as of the moment, there is an objection to that package being adopted.

When I say the package has been cleared, what I am saying is there has been no objection to the substance of any of those 70 amendments. If there was an objection to the substance, they would not be cleared. So there is no objection to the substance of those approximately 70 amendments, but you should be aware, because most of us have amendments in that cleared managers' package, that unless that objection is removed, we cannot get that package adopted tonight.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I very much support this amendment, I am a cosponsor, and I hope we can all vote for it. This does what we said--those of us who wrote this bill--the bill does and does not do all along. It does not change current law. This amendment reinforces the point that this bill does not change current law relative to this section of this bill. The section of this bill does not change current law relative to the detention of people in the United States.


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