From left to right: Representatives Ron Paul, Justin Amash,
Adam Smith, and John Garamendi hold press conference in support of
their amendment to the NDAA to protect due process rights.
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today joined Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI), and Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) at a press conference in support of the bipartisan Smith-Amash-Garamendi-Berman amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to protect our due process rights. The amendment explicitly clarifies the view of Congress that no one detained on U.S. soil can be indefinitely detained and that every person deserves access to a lawyer and a fair judicial process.
Congressman Garamendi then appeared before the House Rules Committee urging the committee to allow the bipartisan due process amendment to have an up or down vote on the House floor.
"It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you are on, civil liberties are essential to everyone. As authors of this great nation’s laws, Congress must tread carefully when our fundamental, constitutional rights are at stake," Congressman Garamendi explained in written testimony submitted to the committee. "When writing laws that will affect individual liberties, we must speak clearly and with an unwavering voice – there is no room for ambiguity or uncertainty."
Congressman Garamendi’s complete remarks submitted to the Rules Committee are below.
Congressman Garamendi’s Testimony before the Rules Committee on Due Process Rights and the Smith-Amash-Garamendi-Berman Amendment
Chairman Dreier and Ranking Member Slaughter, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify before your committee on behalf of this most important amendment.
Some legal scholars fear that under current law, you could be snatched from a street corner, taken from your home or picked up from your workplace if law enforcement officials or military personnel suspect you were involved or connected with international terrorism. Legal experts worry that you could be kept for as long as deemed necessary to gather intelligence to thwart international terrorists. You would have no right to an attorney, no right to be charged with a crime and no right to have your claims heard by a judge. This grim reality doesn’t exist under President Obama – who has said he will not interpret current law this way – but this ambiguity in the FY12 Defense Authorization Act must be changed to avoid future abuses. We must defend the U.S. Constitution and reject the idea that indefinite detention has any place in civil society.
It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you are on, civil liberties are essential to everyone. As authors of this great nation’s laws, Congress must tread carefully when our fundamental, constitutional rights are at stake. When writing laws that will affect individual liberties, we must speak clearly and with an unwavering voice – there is no room for ambiguity or uncertainty.
However, in last year’s NDAA, we left the door open to uncertainty. The language could be broadly interpreted to allow law enforcement officials and military personnel to detain a person indefinitely without charge or trial.
Following passage of the FY12 NDAA, I introduced H.R. 3702, the Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011. This bipartisan bill sought to clarify that due process is guaranteed for all U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Senator Feinstein introduced S. 2003, a companion bill in the Senate with bipartisan support. Since that time, I’ve spoken with many experts in the field and recognize that my bill is insufficient in its guarantee of due process rights. For that reason, I have co-sponsored Ranking Member Smith’s stand alone bill, H.R. 4192, the Due Process and Military Detention Amendments Act. H.R. 4192 is very similar to our amendment today in that it guarantees due process for all persons as provided for in the Constitution. During the full committee markup of the FY13 NDAA bill last week, I offered a due process guarantee amendment but was forced to withdraw on procedural grounds. The Chairman restricted our ability to address this significant matter during the committee markup which is why we are here today, asking you to let this issue be resolved on the House floor with all Members participating in the debate. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you are an American first.
We have been working to remedy this dangerous ambiguity since the FY12 NDAA was passed in December 2011. And that is why I am here today with my colleagues to support an amendment seeking to clarify existing law and to bring closure to this most important issue.
Our amendment would eliminate the ambiguity and make clear that all persons arrested and detained in the United States will be transferred to an Article 3 court and provided due process of law. The United States is founded upon these principles and our Constitution is clear: everyone deserves their day in court and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. This amendment would simply reiterate what our Founding Fathers already established.
Those in opposition may argue there are certain circumstances when a person should be kept out of Article 3 courts because of his or her connection to international terrorism. Some fear that pertinent intelligence may be lost if the military is not given unrestricted access to the individual. I firmly believe our military and law enforcement officials have established a good working relationship and have the necessary tools to successfully interrogate and prosecute individuals. Since 9/11, over 300 terrorists have been put behind bars. In these cases, due process has not been a hindrance nor has it threatened our national security – it has shown dedication to our nation’s long standing traditions and values. But if we signal to communities in America that they could, at some point under some Administration, be locked up indefinitely for mere suspicion, we lose vital intelligence gathering and essential allies in our struggle against terrorism.
I would also like to note that other amendments have been submitted in an effort to “fix” this problem, but they miss the mark. The 14th Amendment explicitly states “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
The Constitution doesn’t say “only U.S. citizens” or “only citizens and lawful permanent residents”. It says all persons are entitled to due process of law. Mr. Goodlatte’s amendment would limit due process and only guarantee that U.S. citizens would be granted this constitutional right. I appreciate his efforts, but as I stated before, we must apply this right to all persons and stand by our commitment to protecting civil liberties. Just ask those who lived through the Japanese-American incarceration during World War II whose rights were restricted.
Then there is Mr. Gohmert’s amendment which fails to even address due process. It seeks to protect a person’s right to the writ of habeas corpus, but the writ is not even at issue here. In recent Supreme Court cases, the court has consistently held that unless Congress plainly states its intention to suspend the writ, habeas corpus remains intact. Nowhere in the FY12 NDAA did we explicitly suspend the writ, therefore, it is a non-issue. It’s in fact a counterproductive distraction from the real issues at stake here.
I urge you to rule this amendment in order and let the will of the House determine how important this civil liberty is. I believe a majority of my colleagues in the House along with a majority of our constituents want a clear and explicit protection of our due process rights and this amendment will achieve it.