I rise in opposition to Section 1021 of the underlying Conference Report (H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act).
This section specifically affirms that the President has the authority to deny due process to any American it charges with “substantially supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban or any ‘associated forces'” – whatever that means.
Would “substantial support” of an “associated force,” mean linking a web-site to a web-site that links to a web-site affiliated with al-Qaeda? We don’t know. The question is, “do we really want to find out?”
We’re told not to worry – that the bill explicitly states that nothing in it shall alter existing law.
There is no existing law that gives the President the power to ignore the Bill of Rights and detain Americans without due process. There is only an assertion by the last two presidents that this power is inherent in an open-ended and ill-defined war on terrorism. But it is a power not granted by any act of Congress. At least, not until now.
What this bill says is, “What Presidents have only asserted, Congress now affirms in statute.”
We’re told that this merely pushes the question to the Supreme Court to decide if indefinite detainment is compatible with any remaining vestige of the Bill of Rights.
That’s a good point, IF the Court were the sole guardian of the Constitution. But it is not. If it were, there would be no reason to require every member of Congress to swear to preserve, protect, and defend that Constitution.
We are also its guardians.
And today, we who have sworn fealty to that Constitution sit to consider a bill that affirms a power contained in no law and that has the full potential to crack the very foundation of American liberty.