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Law's detainee language unites left, right

Jan. 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Lawmakers say a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Congress is trying to change language on detaining U.S. citizens that President Obama signed into law last month.

The lawmakers say they, have concerns the bill's language could be interpreted to allow a president to hold a U.S. citizen without charge, The Hill reported. Obama, when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act in December included a signing statement saying he had "serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists."

"Any statute that could possibly be interpreted to allow a president to detain American citizens without charge or trial is incredibly alarming," said Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., a freshman lawmaker and member of the Tea Party Caucus who has introduced a bill in the House to clarify the law.

At issue is a provision in the new law in which Congress affirmed a president's right to detain anyone who was "part of or substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces … under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities."

The provision doesn't specifically exempt U.S. citizens.

"You go down a slippery slope," liberal Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told The Hill. "To not give people a hearing, to not give an American citizen the right to have his case heard in a court -- I think that's one of our basic rights. Once we're starting to get rid of our basic rights, we're in real trouble."

Both Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, seeking the GOP presidential nomination, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have issued statements saying the provisions violate the Fifth Amendment, The Hill said.

Supporters argue the president already has the authority and such authority is necessary in a global war on terror.

"The threat to our homeland is growing," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said during Senate debate. "Homegrown radical terrorists are becoming the threat of the 21st century, and now is not the time to change the law."

"The problem is the vagueness of the law," Landry said. "To allow the executive branch to encroach upon the liberties of American citizens based on an interpretation of a vague law is dangerous."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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