This blog post by Chris Anders was originally published by the American Civil Liberties Union.
It looks like there is slick little trick brewing in Congress. Supporters of locking people up without charge or trial are getting ready to play yet another trick on the American people. Late yesterday, Congressman Scott Rigell and 26 other members of Congress introduced a bill, H.R. 4388, which he is trying to sell to the American people as a “fix” for the National Defense Authorization Act. But in fact, it is a useless bill that might actually end up causing harm. That’s right. The plan in the House of Representatives seems to be to try to fool Americans into thinking that they are fixing the indefinite detention problems with the NDAA and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, when in fact, they are doing nothing good.
Don’t be fooled! Here’s how they hope their trick will work. H.R. 4388, which was sneakily mistitled as the “Right to Habeas Corpus Act,” states that no one in the United States will lose their habeas rights under the NDAA. That might sound like something good, but it’s meaningless. The question with the NDAA was never whether habeas rights are lost. Instead, the question is whether and when any president can order the military to imprison a person without charge or trial. The NDAA did not take away habeas rights from anyone, but it did codify a dangerous indefinite detention without charge or trial scheme. And nothing in the proposed bill by Rigell would change it. The Rigell bill won’t stop any president from ordering the military lockup of civilians without charge or trial. And there’s more. Not only is it a useless bill, but it could end up causing harm too. It doesn’t accurately and fully list who is entitled to habeas (for example, it doesn’t even mention American citizens traveling outside the country), which could end up causing confusion. They are hoping you will fall for their trick and waste all your time and energy on something meaningless—and not fight for legislation that actually protects people from indefinite detention without charge or trial. They are hoping you will ignore the bills that actually are first steps towards fixing the NDAA. Congressman Adam Smith and Sen. Mark Udall introduced H.R. 4192/S. 2175, which codifies a ban on the military imprisoning civilians without charge or trial or trying persons before military commissions within the United States, as well as repeals section 1022 of last year’s NDAA. Also, Congressman Ron Paul has sponsored H.R. 3785, which repeals section 1021 of the NDAA. Both are meaningful first steps towards fixing a problem. Supporters of last year’s NDAA indefinite detention provisions hope you will fall for their trick. They want you to spend your time pushing for the Rigell bill, instead of working on something meaningful. Retweet the ACLU’s tweet to Rigell to tell him to stop playing games with indefinite detention without charge or trial.