12.01.11

Leahy: Senate Should Not Limit Law Enforcement, Intelligence Gathering Tools

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011) – U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) spoke Thursday on the Senate floor in support of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to ensure that the requirement of military detention of terrorism suspects does not apply domestically.  Leahy is a cosponsor of the amendment, which is sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General of the United States, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the President’s top national security advisor have all expressed strong opposition to the detention provisions included in the NDAA.  The Feinstein-Leahy amendment will ensure that these provisions do not interfere with ongoing counterterrorism efforts.

 

# # # # #

 

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee On The Judiciary,

On Feinstein-Leahy-Durbin-Udall Amendment SA 1125 to S.1867,

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

December 1, 2011

Earlier this week, one of this bill’s lead sponsors said here on the floor of the United States Senate that the bill’s detention subtitle would authorize the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens at Guantanamo Bay.  That is a stunning statement.  We should all pause to consider the ramifications of passing a bill containing such language.  Supporters of the detention provisions in the bill continue to argue that such measures are needed because, they claim, “we are a nation at war.”  That does not mean that we should be a Nation without laws, or a Nation that does not adhere to the principles of our Constitution. 

One of the provisions in this bill, Section 1032, runs directly contrary to those principles.  Section 1032 requires the military to detain terrorism suspects, even those who might be captured on U.S. soil.  This provision is opposed by the very intelligence, military, and law enforcement officials who are entrusted with keeping our Nation safe – including the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General, the Director of the FBI, and the President’s top counterterrorism advisor.  As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I support the efforts of Senator Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to modify Section 1032 so that it does not interfere with ongoing counterterrorism efforts or undermine our constitutional principles.

In the fight against al-Qaida and other terrorist threats, we should give our intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals all the tools they need.  But the mandatory military detention provision in Section 1032 actually limits those tools by tying the hands of the intelligence and law enforcement professionals who are fighting terrorism on the ground, and by creating operational confusion and uncertainty.  This is unwise and unnecessary.

On Monday, Director Mueller warned that Section 1032 would adversely affect the Bureau’s ability to continue ongoing international investigations.  Secretary Panetta has also stated unequivocally that “[t]his provision restrains the Executive Branch’s options to utilize, in a swift and flexible fashion, all the counterterrorism tools that are now legally available.”  These are not partisan objections, but rather the significant operational concerns voiced by the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the FBI – both of whom were confirmed by this body with 100-0 votes.  And yet these are the voices that supporters of this bill would ignore. 

Supporters of this bill have argued that the new national security waiver and implementation procedures in this section provide the administration with the flexibility it needs to fight terrorism.  The intelligence and law enforcement officials who are actually responsible for fighting terrorism and keeping our Nation safe, however, could not disagree more.  As Director Mueller stated in his letter, these provisions are still problematic and “fail to recognize the reality of a counterterrorism investigation.”  Director of National Intelligence Clapper has stated that “the various detention provisions, even with the proposed waivers, would introduce unnecessary rigidity” in the intelligence gathering process.  Put differently, Lisa Monaco, the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, recently stated that “agents and prosecutors should not have to spend their time worrying about citizenship status and whether and how to get a waiver signed by the Secretary of Defense in order to thwart an al-Qaida plot against the homeland.” 

We should listen to the intelligence and law enforcement professionals who are entrusted with our Nation’s safety, and we should fix this flawed provision.

Senator Feinstein’s amendment would ensure that the requirement of military detention of terrorism suspects does not apply domestically.  As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I am proud to be a cosponsor of this amendment, and I urge all Senators to support its adoption. 

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693