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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ANDREWS. I thank my friend.

I rise to respectfully disagree with the amendment offered by a person for whom I have great respect. I know that he offers this amendment because he certainly wants to avoid a situation where our country arbitrarily takes innocent human life. I think he's right to have that concern, and I think it's one that is widely held. I think that the issue raised by this amendment is whether others can be entrusted with striking that same balance or whether the Congress should enact a unilateral prohibition against certain kinds of activities.

When the decision-makers who operate these drone strikes make a decision, they have to strike this balance between our moral obligation to avoid arbitrary attacks on innocent people and our moral obligation to defend our country. And I think that they are capable of striking that balance, and I frankly think that a blanket

prohibition against the use of these strikes--except in circumstances where we know the identity of the target--unduly restricts them in making that judgment.

I certainly understand and sympathize with the goal of this amendment. But because I think it unduly restricts our options, I would urge its defeat.


Mr. ANDREWS. I rise in opposition to the amendment.

If a suspected terrorist can only be tried successfully in a military commission because there are concerns about jeopardizing the confidentiality of classified information or other concerns, then I emphatically agree that that person should be tried in a military commission. But to presuppose that all such detainees properly belong in a military commission, I think, is a mistake, for two reasons.

First, it really prejudges the record of evidence and the standing of law in that case when we're not necessarily competent to do that. That is a decision the prosecutors ought to make. Secondly, I think, although it's not the intention of the authors, I'm sure, it belies a certain lack of confidence in our constitutional system of criminal justice.

We should be proud of our system. It's one that operates on principles of fairness, and it fairly and expeditiously determines guilt or innocence. I think to abandon that system in all cases and under all circumstances not only unwisely prejudges the facts of these cases but also unwittingly undercuts confidence in our Constitution and in our Article III courts. For that reason, I would urge a ``no'' vote on this amendment.


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