POLITICS
10/10/2012 01:29 pm ET

Mitt Romney Avoids Clear Stance On Indefinite Detention Provision

Mitt Romney dodged a question Wednesday on whether he would have vetoed a bill that included indefinite detention, even though he has previously said he would have signed it.

"I'll look at that particular piece of legislation," he said at a town hall event in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in response to a question from an audience member. "I can tell you this, that much of what happens in Washington is driven by the leadership there, and I can assure you that when I become president -- you introduced it that way -- that when I become president I will not do things that interfere with the rights of our citizens and our freedoms."

The National Defense Authorization Act -- which President Barack Obama signed into law in December 2011 to keep the military funded despite "serious reservations" -- includes a provision that allows the military to detain individuals indefinitely without trial, even if they are U.S. citizens. Civil rights groups sued to block the provision as unconstitutional, but the Obama administration has defended it.

Romney gave a tepid endorsement of the idea of indefinite detention, but declined to speak about the actual bill. He said he supports the Patriot Act, a controversial bill to expand intelligence gathering signed into law in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and added that the recent attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya show the need for measures to protect the American people from terrorism.

"As to that specific piece of legislation, I'm happy to take a look at it, but I don't believe this is a time for us to be pulling back from our vigilance protecting America and keeping us safe from the kinds of threats we face around the world," he said.

Romney said at a debate in January that he would have supported the bill and indefinite detention.

"Yes, I would have," he said, receiving boos from the crowd. "And I do believe that it is appropriate to have in our nation the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country, who are members of al Qaeda."

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his statement Wednesday versus his previous assurance that he would have signed the bill.

Watch video of Romney's statement in January:

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