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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

I support the manager's amendment. I'm going to speak the balance of my time on the Smith-Amash amendment coming up later. There has been a great deal of distorted information going out. I want to take this opportunity to correct some of it.

First of all, the Gohmert amendment that's being offered does not solve the problem; you will still be subject to military custody and indefinite detention. It is not clear on that point; it leaves open the possibility the President will maintain that authority, and that is what this debate should be all about.

The President, right now, has the authority to go outside of the normal due process, constitutionally protected rights that are part of a court trial, and lock somebody up indefinitely or place them in military custody here in the U.S. That is an extraordinary amount of power to give the executive branch over individual freedom and liberty. I don't think it is necessary to keep us safe. Ten years of successfully prosecuting, convicting, and locking up terrorists under Article III courts has proven that point.

But hands down, the dumbest set of arguments I've ever heard in debating has been circulating that somehow taking away this extraordinary power from the President rewards terrorists. I would like to remind everybody--and particularly Tea Party conservatives--that just because the government arrests you doesn't mean you're guilty. Under their thinking, basically, once the government says you're a terrorist, you're a terrorist, and we shouldn't have a trial about it. So any effort to make sure that there's a process, to make sure that you actually are a terrorist becomes rewarding them. No; it's the process to make sure they are actually guilty. I cannot believe that Tea Party conservatives want to create a situation where when the government says you're guilty of a crime, that's it--no trial, no process, let's just lock you up and forget about it. That's why we have a court system.

Let's have the real debate here. Does the President need this authority to keep us safe? I don't believe he does. Let's stop these ridiculous arguments about rewarding terrorists and have some respect for the Constitution and due process.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 minute.

Just to respond to the arguments of the gentleman from Texas, if an al Qaeda terrorist comes to the U.S., whether they're an illegal alien or not, frankly, we want them arrested, tried, and convicted. All we want to do is make sure that they actually are a terrorist before we do that, to have a process in place so that the President doesn't have that power to simply lock somebody up without due process and a trial.

And then the argument about how we are bestowing upon illegal aliens constitutional rights. I've got bad news for the gentleman from Texas. We aren't bestowing anything. The United States Constitution bestows upon them those rights.

The United States Constitution says any person in the U.S., not citizen, not legal, illegal, it doesn't matter. So if he has a beef, he has a beef with James Madison and everybody else who supported the Constitution.

And we hear constantly from that side, strict interpretation, the Constitution must be adhered to. The Constitution says any person, not any lawful resident or any citizen. The United States Constitution clearly triggers that. We're not creating anything. In fact, the Gohmert amendment goes outside the Constitution by creating rights that aren't contemplated in here, separating people in this country in terms of who should get what rights. It's in the Constitution: any person.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. I would just point out that Mirandized or not, nobody has to speak, and a ton of information has come out of people after they were Mirandized.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chair, I rise to speak on the amendment by Mr. TURNER that addresses safety at defense nuclear facilities, that is considered in this en-block package.

Much reckless damage has been done in this bill that weakens safety for workers at defense nuclear facilities and for the public.

Among other changes, this hill blocks independent oversight by the Department of Energy and weakens the capacity of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. This oversight is critical to keeping people safe, and we should not be cutting corners on safety.

These changes have profound implications and risk imperiling the safety and lives of worker and the public.

It also transfers responsibility for safety to the National Nuclear Security Administrator and to contractors, at a time when NNSA's undivided attention should be focused on maintaining a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent and on the pressing need to make much-needed progress on nuclear nonproliferation to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism.

For these reasons, Mr. MILLER, Mr. VISCLOSKY, Ms. SANCHEZ, Mr. WAXMAN and I submitted two amendments to undo some of the damage that is done in this bill, and that would have preserved strong safety standards and independent oversight.

My amendment would have restored the authority of the Secretary of Energy over the nuclear weapons complex and nonproliferation programs, whose control has been improperly severed without justification in this bill.

However, the Rules Committee did not make these amendments in order, and so regrettably we are prevented from having this important debate on an issue that affects thousands of Americans who work or live near defense nuclear sites.

Going forward, I will work with the Senate in conference to reverse many of these changes, to improve the outcome in our final bill.

Specifically with regard to the amendment by Mr. TURNER in this package, it makes several important improvements but does not go far enough and fail to fix significant problems in the bill.

(1) This amendment does not specifically prohibit a reduction in the safety standards, both nuclear and non-nuclear, compared to the standards we have today for defense nuclear facilities. Nonnuclear safety standards, such as fire protection, quality assurance, chemical, are also important to the safety of defense nuclear facilities.

(2) This amendment reaffirms that the decision on safety standards should be made by the Administrator for Nuclear Security, rather than by the Secretary of Energy and the Dept of Energy's Office of Health, Safety and Security, which would provide independent oversight of NNSA and the nuclear weapons complex health and safety and security operations.

(3) The core concept of risk and cost-benefit should not be an element of adequate protection. Inserting cost requirements muddles the requirements for safety. At this time, cost is not an element of adequate protection for commercial nuclear power or for DOE's defense nuclear facilities. It also forces the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to pre-judge NNSA's action and decisions in responding to safety concerns, rather than allowing the Board to focus on identifying and raising safety concerns.
(4) This requirement places obstacles in the Board's path and will make it more difficult to ensure adequate protection of public and worker safety.

(5) These provisions would allow inconsistent safety standards.

I am deeply concerned about these changes and hope to work with my colleagues to remedy the measures that unnecessarily put workers and the public at risk.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. I thank the gentleman.

I rise in opposition to the amendment.

I think the gentleman raises a very legitimate point that the exercise of strikes against terrorist targets does need a proper oversight. There are a number of ways in which I think we can have greater transparency in those decisions, frankly, whether they're signature strikes or against individuals.

The bottom line is al Qaeda declared war against us in 1996. They are actively prosecuting that war against us from a number of different locations, many of which we don't have as much information as we would like, but clearly in federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, they are organizing training camps and they are actively pursuing us. Our Joint Special Operations Command is trying to keep track of those networks and keep them from attacking us.

The ability to hit those training camps is an important part of protecting us from terrorist attacks. As General McChrystal said: It takes a network to beat a network. We need our network to have the ability to stop Al Qaeda's network. They declared war against us. They haven't changed their mind. It is still something that we need to be able to adequately protect this country against. This amendment unduly restricts our military's ability to protect this country.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. We are not ignoring any of that. All of those issues are things we discussed in the Armed Services Committee, are very much aware of and very concerned about. But the bottom line is, as my colleagues have pointed out, regrettably, Pakistan is in a part of the world where we have national security interests.

Pakistan has, at various times, provided critical support to allow us to get the supplies we need to our troops in Afghanistan. They have also assisted us in going after various terrorist groups inside of Pakistan. That help has been maybe 2 percent of what we would like it to be, but that 2 percent, regrettably, is help we cannot turn away.

It is a very problematic relationship. I think the gentleman who offered this amendment described that quite well. But we cannot afford to simply cut it off because of how important that region is to our national security interests. His amendment would do that. And it is bad policy for this country, bad policy for our troops, and bad policy for our national security interests. Therefore, I would urge us to oppose it.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment as well.

As was discussed earlier, we certainly have problems with our relationship with Pakistan. We want to make sure that we continue to put the pressure on them to improve that relationship. Opening up these supply lines are critical to our troops. I think it is a minimum requirement that we should ask, and the gentleman's amendment is very well thought out. It is the appropriate response for dealing with our difficult ally.

As Mr. Rohrabacher mentioned earlier, certainly there is much that Pakistan does that causes us trouble. But they are a country that we need to work with if we're going to properly contain the al Qaeda and terrorist threat that comes from that region of the world. I think the gentleman from Virginia's amendment strikes that balance just right, and I urge this body to support it.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I do not oppose military commissions. I think military commissions are an important tool, particularly when you are talking about people who are captured overseas, potentially in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia. I agree with the gentleman in that there are instances when the evidence necessary requires a military commission.

Yet the problem with this amendment is it says it has to be a military commission, that Article III courts are never an option. We have an extensive history of capturing terrorists overseas, of bringing them back to the United States, of trying them in Article III courts, and of convicting them and putting them in prison. We've done that a number of different times, and it is an option that should be on the table. I cannot support taking that option completely away under any circumstances, because there are a couple of problems with military commissions.

They are necessary for many of the reasons that Mr. Rooney stated. However, they are also relatively new. We had some military commissions during World War II--I believe just one for a particular group of German spies who were here in the U.S. We've done a couple since then, but they are untested, and there will undoubtedly be appeals.

The beauty of the Article III courts is you have 230 years of history. My math may be off a little bit there, but you have over 200 years of history. Let's put it that way. It's well developed, and you know what's coming, and you can prepare the evidence accordingly. We don't know what's going to come from a military commission.

The second problem with the military commissions is that our overseas allies are not as fond of them as we are, and it may inhibit our ability to get them to turn terrorists over to us for prosecution if they know they have to go to military commissions.

This amendment doesn't make any sense. To take Article III courts completely off the table is taking an option away from the President and from this country to properly protect us. There are going to be instances when we are going to want to use that tool and other instances when we will want to use the military commissions, and this amendment takes away that option in a way that, I believe, will hamper national security. It will limit our options for how to prosecute terrorists.

I will say this again, and I will emphasize this: we seem to have totally lost track of the fact that the Department of Justice, the FBI, our Article III courts have been one of the most important tools in successfully stopping the terrorists--over 400 tried, convicted, and locked up for life. That is a very effective tool. The FBI knows how to investigate crimes. It knows how to interrogate suspects. It can do the job.

Why would we take that tool in our toolbox and throw it away? It doesn't make sense. For that reason, I have to oppose this amendment.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Three quick points. I think the difference here and the reason that I drafted my amendment to say ``just in the U.S.,'' I think is a legitimate point. Overseas we do not have the same control over the investigatory process that we have here domestically. There's a clear difference between dealing with someone here domestically. That's why in the last 10 years we haven't done anything other than try people here in the U.S. under Article III courts. We haven't needed military commissions. That's why I think we should take that power away from the President because it's an extraordinary amount of power to give him that isn't necessary.

Overseas they are, in fact, taking away the options in this amendment and saying it has to be military tribunals. They are also saying that Article III courts are inadequate to do that when, in fact, they've done it repeatedly. The people who committed the bombing against the World Trade Towers in 1993 were captured overseas, brought back, and tried here in domestic courts. Article III courts work sometimes in these incidents. Their amendment takes those options away completely. I also point out that Guantanamo Bay is not an enormous facility. They already have 40 people waiting in line for military tribunals. Many more will backlog that.

But I want to come back to my amendment that will come up later. Domestically, we have proven that Article III courts are more than adequate. Overseas, we've proven that we need multiple options. So this amendment sort of is in reverse of what the facts bear out that we should be doing, and I urge opposition to it.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Without question, the F 35 has been a troubled program. It's been more expensive than we would like it to be and has underperformed. It is getting better, as the chairman mentioned.

There are a number of problems with this amendment, however. First of all, in replacing the F 35B--that's the Marine Corps variant; it's a vertical takeoff plane. I know Mr. Kline will do a much better job of explaining this in a moment than I will. The Marine Corps is an expeditionary force. They need to insert themselves. That's why they need a vertical takeoff plane. The F 18 that is proposed to replace it is not a vertical takeoff. It is not a replacement for the F 35B.

Second, the F 35 is a vastly more capable plane than the F 18. It is all about stealth and being able to get in on targets. The F 18 cannot get to the areas that the F 35 could get to to deal with adversaries like Iran or North Korea and those surface-to-air missiles. It is a much more capable plane.

If we cut this variant, we will also jeopardize the entire program, not just this variant. Our foreign partners are likely to withdraw. It will undermine our per-unit cost to the point where sustaining the program will be very difficult.

It is unfortunate at this point the degree to which we have to rely on this program. But it's going to be 95 percent of our fighter attack aircraft fleet in 10 years. We have to make it work. Therefore, I oppose this amendment.


Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Chairman, the V 22 was a troubled program. Certainly before it was finally developed, it went through a number of difficulties. But as the gentleman mentioned in offering the amendment, it has gotten over those difficulties; and, in fact, has been deployed in Afghanistan for a very long time. I was in Afghanistan, and I rode on a V 22. And so it obviously can perform in desert environments. I was down in the Helmand province, and it is a very capable plane.

Again it has to do with the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps' capabilities. They are an expeditionary force. The vertical takeoff and landing ability of the V 22 is critical to what they do. As Mr. Bartlett pointed out, it has longer range and greater capacity, and properly deployed and properly used, can actually make it cheaper than buying more helicopters that are necessary to accomplish that mission. It is a necessary program, certainly necessary for the Marine Corps. I would urge opposition to the amendment.


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