12/14/2011 07:01 pm ET | Updated Feb 13, 2012

Reject Indefinite Detention; Defend the Constitution

Constituents sent us here to safeguard their liberty -- I ask my colleagues to think long and hard about this vote.

On Tuesday, I led U.S. House efforts to remove dangerous detainee provisions from the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act (Johnson-Heinrich letter).

Several last-minute changes to those provisions today were inadequate, and I spoke in opposition to the bill on the U.S. House floor.

Excerpts from my speech:

"We have sworn to uphold our Constitution of the United States of America -- regardless of which committee we serve on. Yet we are about to give our seal of approval to a bill that gives the military the authority to hold American citizens captured abroad on suspicion of terrorism and to hold them indefinitely without trial. This is a codification of an unfortunate Supreme Court ruling ... and it gives that ruling statutory legitimacy.

"Mr. Speaker, we must reject indefinite detention of Americans and defend the Constitution. ... No matter how you spin it, it's wrong. It's unjust, it's Orwellian, and it's not who we are.

"The bill also makes the military, not civilian law enforcement authorities, responsible for custody and prosecution in the military courts of foreign terrorist suspects apprehended within the United States. This provision disrespects and demoralizes our law enforcement officers and prosecutors who are responsible for protecting our national security using the United States criminal justice system and process which has been effectively used repeatedly to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate individuals who are convicted of terrorism. Imagine you're an FBI agent or federal prosecutor with a tremendous record finding, arresting, convicting, and locking up terrorists. Now you are told to step aside so that the military can do your job for you.

"The military is a machine of war. Not a law enforcement agency. That's why the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the FBI, the Director of the CIA, the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, and the Secretary of Defense himself oppose this provision. ... Terrorism is a crime and our law enforcement authorities - our prosecutors, our judges - are more than up to the task. This bill ties the hands of law enforcement, militarizes counterterrorism on our own soil, and makes us less safe.

"Mr. Speaker, our constituents sent us here to provide for the common defense, yes. But they also sent us here to safeguard their liberty. So I ask my colleagues to think long and hard about this vote. And I ask the staff watching this on C-SPAN to think long and hard before making their recommendations. Reject indefinite intention, empower civilian law enforcement and defend the constitution. I yield back."

Video of my speech is available HERE.

Rep. Johnson serves on the House Armed Services and House Judiciary Committees.

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