WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on his legislation H.R. 3702, the Due Process Guarantee Act. Senator Feinstein is the sponsor of an identical companion bill in the Senate, S. 2003. The Due Process Guarantee Act would make sure that all United States citizens and legal permanent on U.S. soil must be charged or tried and cannot be indefinitely detained. A copy of his prepared remarks is included below:
Congressman Garamendi's Statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee On "The Due Process Guarantee Act: Banning Indefinite Detention of Americans"
Chairman Feinstein and Ranking Member Grassley, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify before your committee on the Due Process Guarantee Act. Congress must speak in a clear unwavering voice when the liberty of individuals is at stake.
Chairman Feinstein, thank you for your leadership on this issue. The Due Process Guarantee Act provides clarity in an area where Congress and the American people cannot afford to have ambiguity. Congress, as the maker of this nation's laws, must always tread carefully when the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution are at issue. We must leave no uncertainty when it comes to the rights of the American people.
We must clarify existing law to guarantee the Due Process rights of every American are protected. It is a foundational principle of our great nation that we are all innocent until proven guilty and that we all deserve a fair trial.
The FY 12 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) came too close to infringing those rights. It is not a perfect piece of legislation but our service members must have the tools they need to get the job done. The Act does that.
There is much that is necessary in the NDAA. It includes a 1.6 percent pay increase for our troops, keeps TRICARE affordable, and includes needed anti-mine and anti-IED technology. This legislation puts personnel first and does right by Travis Air Force Base and other bases in Northern California.
More than a decade removed from the horrible events of September 11th, terrorists are behind bars and dangerous plots have been thwarted. The world knows that America will no longer tolerate safe havens for Al Qaeda. But we don't need to sacrifice our civil liberties and subvert the constitution for security.
Unfortunately, the NDAA comes too close to doing just that. Before and after passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) there was concern among Members of Congress, and people from all walks of life, including the military and law enforcement community, that the language in the bill left open the possibility that U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents could be indefinitely detained without charge or trial.
President Obama, the Secretary of Defense, and the Directors of the CIA and FBI, along with the Chairman who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee all oppose indefinite detention. Those who receive the most up to date intelligence, sit at the highest levels of our government-some of whom have served both Republicans and Democrats, believe that we do not need this policy to keep us safe.
President Obama was so concerned with the language in the NDAA that he wrote a Presidential Signing Statement about the detainee provisions stating that "I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law."
While I take President Obama at his word, subsequent administrations will not be bound by his Signing Statement. The law itself must be absolutely clear. That is why I chose to introduce H.R. 3702 the Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011 in the House. This bill states unequivocally that the government cannot indefinitely detain American citizens arrested inside this country without trial or charge.
The bill amends the Non-Detention Act of 1971 by providing that a Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) does not authorize the indefinite detention—without charge or trial—of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who are apprehended domestically. In addition to the AUMF, the bill also states that a declaration of war or a similar act by the Executive or Congress does not abridge this right.
The Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011 codifies a "clear-statement rule," that requires Congress to expressly authorize detention authority when it comes to U.S. citizens and lawful residents. The clear statement rule is a cannon of statutory interpretation in which Congress clarifies an area of ambiguity or possible ambiguity by stating in the clearest terms possible its intent. Congress must speak in a clear unwavering voice when the liberty of individuals is at stake. As we know from the dark moments in our past, where there is ambiguity in the law, abuses at the highest levels of the government can occur.
Chairman Feinstein and Ranking Member Grassley, I thank you for allowing me to testify before this subcommittee. I look forward to working with you, Congressman Landry, and my colleagues in both the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle, who wish to bring clarity to this important issue. The American people deserve no less when our liberty is at stake. Let's keep America safe and free.