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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

On September 18, 2001, Congress enacted the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which empowered the President to ``use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks,'' in order to prevent ``any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.''

Section 1021 of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act reaffirms the President's authority to detain so-called ``enemy combatants'' by ``affirming that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons pending disposition under the law of war.''

A number of Members from both sides of the aisle have expressed extreme discomfort and even outrage at the notion that a United States citizen apprehended on United States soil can potentially be held indefinitely under this act. To that end, I supported an amendment to the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that reaffirmed the availability of the writ of habeas corpus for any person detained in the United States pursuant to the 2001 AUMF or the fiscal year 2012 NDAA.

While this provision was a step in the right direction, many would view the current habeas proceedings as unfair to the petitioner. For instance, the government enjoys a rebuttable presumption that its evidence is accurate and authentic, and it must only prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence. To most Americans, this would not seem to be a fair fight. For United States citizens, the burden should be on the government to prove that the detainee is an enemy belligerent. U.S. citizens should not be put in a position to prove that they are not a terrorist.

Today, with this amendment, I want to make clear that nothing in the AUMF or the fiscal year 2012 NDAA--or any other law for that matter--can be construed to deny the great writ of habeas corpus.

Further, this amendment requires that in habeas proceedings for United States citizens apprehended in the United States pursuant to the AUMF, the government must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the citizen is an unprivileged enemy combatant, and there is no presumption that the government's evidence is accurate and authentic.

This is an important amendment that should alleviate any of the well-founded concerns of the American people concerning the possibility of indefinite detention of United States citizens. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty will be preserved by adopting this amendment.

I want to thank the chairman of the Armed Services Committee for supporting this amendment. I appreciate his commitment to ensuring that this language stays in the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 minute. I want to respond to the gentleman.

First of all, the contention that there is no distinction drawn between United States citizens and noncitizens in the context of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment does not operate to protect all citizens regardless of their connections to American society. So the 9/11 hijackers are not in the same status as individuals in this country who are citizens of the United States. Rather, the Fourth Amendment operates only to protect the class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community. The farther that an individual is removed from such community, then the weaker the claim he has to constitutional protection.

I agree with the gentleman that rewriting the Authorization for Use of Military Force and extending this protection, particularly as it pertains to the United States citizens, greater should be done; but what the gentleman wants to do does not have the kind of strong bipartisan support that's necessary to pass the House. This amendment does, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time to say to the gentleman from New York, you cause the Members of the Congress to have a Hobson's choice of having to choose to give the protection to every single person in the United States--including the 9/11 hijackers and others--or you have the opportunity to choose to give it clearly to United States citizens who clearly are entitled to have it.

You do not have the ability, with your amendment, to draw that line between those who are lawfully present in the United States and would be entitled, and those who do not. As a result of that, I would urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment that the gentleman describes and support this amendment, which will advance the cause of giving United States citizens greater protections, reversing the burden of proof, putting that burden on the government--which is, after all, the American way. It is, after all, what the Bill of Rights provides.

You have to show that in order to convict a United States citizen in our courts--or certainly in an article III court--and it should be in these military tribunals--the burden of proof on government to do that and do it by a higher standard than they have to under the law that exists right now in the AUMF, which is only reasonable proof, not clear and convincing as this amendment requires.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment as the best way to move forward in protecting the rights of American citizens.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank the gentleman very much for yielding. I also want to tell him how much I appreciate him raising this very important issue.

There is no doubt that individuals brought to the United States as young children by their illegal immigrant parents are the most sympathetic group of people not lawfully present in the United States today, and that is particularly true of those who desire to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. We should embrace these individuals whose goal it is to integrate into American society and live and work by the rules of our Nation.

This is an issue that we plan to look at in the Judiciary Committee, and so I want to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Becerra) also for raising the issue in the context of our overall efforts to deal with immigration reform, and if the gentleman from California would withdraw his amendment, I would commit to him to work with him in addressing the situation and immigration status of these individuals. This should and can be done in the broad spectrum of the entire immigration debate, which as you know we are fully engaged in in the House Judiciary Committee.


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