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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I thank the chairman and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee for the recognition. I am a proud member of that committee, and I am also a member of the Intelligence Committee. From those vantage points, I am well aware of the threats that face our country.

Our military and our intelligence communities have to be prepared to counter threats from a wide range of enemies and bad actors. As we all know, our national security community is decisively engaged against those who would do us harm. When we capture those who are plotting against us, we are swiftly bringing them to justice by trying and convicting those terrorists in civilian courts and, when appropriate, in military commissions.

This is a flexible strategy that has empowered our terrorism community to help keep Americans safe since 9/11, and those brave men and women who spend every waking hour defending this country have been successfully using our laws to pursue terrorists around the globe. But last year Congress changed some of those laws, against the wishes of our military and intelligence communities. Those detainee provisions last year suggest that our military should shift significant resources away from their mission and to instead act as both a domestic law enforcement agency and jailer with respect to terrorist suspects. They also call into question the principles we as Americans hold dear, because they could be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil without trial.

I joined our highest ranking national security officials in warning my colleagues about the dangerous change that such policies would make and I urge us not to pass them. We have to get our detainee and counterterrorism policies right, but unfortunately I believe the policies that were enacted last year complicate our capacity to prosecute the war on terror and in the process erode our Nation's constitutional principles, both of which concern all of us.

I have been working with the administration to ensure that those detention policies are not harmfully interpreted, but the law itself remains a problem. Several of my colleagues, including the Senator from Kentucky and the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Feinstein, have suggested changes to the law that will help repair the flawed policies enacted last year.

I have also crafted my own legislation working with the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith from Washington, to repair some of the harm that I believe was done in last year's NDAA. I filed that bill to this year's NDAA as amendment No. 3115, along with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy.

Senators Feinstein and Paul have a slightly similar but different approach, created as a result of the detainee provisions passed last year. There are efforts under way to assure that whatever path we take forward is supported by the greatest numbers possible, and I look forward to being part of those important discussions.

I know we addressed this issue in part last year, but in speaking with other Members I know there is a renewed interest in getting our detention policies right, both from the view of counterterrorism effectiveness and constitutional protection. I believe both security and freedom are critically important, and I don't think we have to choose one over the other.

I thank my colleagues for remaining diligent in addressing the detention policies that remain a concern, because Americans must remain engaged on this issue.

Madam President, I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum.


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