Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement for today’s hearing to review current policies on Law of War Detention and the President’s recent Executive Order:
“The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine and review our detention and interrogation policies and work toward improving them. I agree with the Chairman that more must be done to address the problems with our current polices and that a legislative solution is needed. We must have a clear and coherent strategy to properly detain and interrogate terrorists that upholds the Constitution and our values while at the same time ensuring our national security.
“However, I have serious concerns with the legislative proposals recently put forth by House and Senate Republicans. The proposals create far more problems than they solve. They give entirely too much power to the Executive Branch and the military. Under some of these proposals, the Department of Defense would have broad authority to detain individuals – including citizens of United States - with too little oversight for ensuring that decisions are made fairly, constitutionally and justly.
“The proposals also create a situation where those who are taken to Guantanamo Bay can never leave. They turn Guantanamo Bay into Hotel California – you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. This is not just a matter of protecting our Constitution and upholding our values, it is also bad policy and a matter of national security. It is vitally important that we make it clear to our adversaries that the freedoms we hold dear and our way of life that they seek to attack is far superior. However, in addressing this national security issue, it is also important that we create a legal framework to lawfully detain terrorists that will be upheld by the courts. This is a critically important point. We must have credibility with the courts if we are to hold detainees who threaten our national security.
“We also must not take options for managing detainees off the table. For example, limiting the use of Article III courts, as the Republican legislation does, would inhibit our ability to try and convict terrorists. The United States has tried and convicted more than 400 terrorists in Article III courts and removing this option only makes prosecuting terrorists more difficult.
“It is important to understand what the Republican legislation would do. It would empower the United States military to pick up a United States citizen who they suspect as aiding a terrorist with no review process and hold them indefinitely where ever they please. This is an enormous amount of power to give the United States military over citizens and it fundamentally challenges our freedoms and individuals rights in a way that I do not think Americans will support.
“Moving forward, I am committed to working with the majority to draft bipartisan legislation that addresses these concerns. Today’s hearing will provide us with the opportunity to review relevant law and policy and to a have a candid discussion about how to best move forward. I look forward to hearing from members of the committee and from today’s witnesses about how we can address this significant problem. ”