INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would not allow state and local law enforcement to aid federal officials with indefinite detentions passed its first hurdle this week when approved unanimously by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee.
The measure was targeted as a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the federal government to detain individuals deemed to be terrorism suspects, including those who are U.S. citizens that are within national borders.
Senate Corrections Chairman Mike Young, a Republican, said assuming the bill passes after a third and final reading, it will go to the Statehouse for approval.
“I think that the over-riding concern of the members of the committee was that our country has laws,” Young said. “And one basic concept is that the government can’t do something to you without having due process of the judicial system — to be able to afford the right to get an attorney, to know what the charges are that are laid against you, to appear before a judge, and to make a case. And then to have a jury of your peers say whether or not you broke the law.”
Young reiterated that the decision does not take away the rights of the federal government to still carry out the elements of the NDAA that they so choose, but simply prohibits state and local authorities from aiding them. In order for it to become law, Gov. Mike Pence will have to sign the bill.
“Under indefinite detention or any other action by the government that’d take away those due process rights is a fear for us, because that means any citizen could disappear and we don’t know what’s going on,” Young said.
Droves of supporters from both the Tea Party and Occupy movement side showed up in congruence with the same belief. James Kerner, president of the Indiana People Against the National Defense Authorization Act (PANDA), expressed adulation that sides that normally do not come together did, but said the victory is only part of the fight.
“It’s definitely a win for us,” he said. “It was really encouraging, and (Sen. Jim) Banks’ speech was timeless. You can’t defend the indefinite detention of human beings. It’s put in such vague language to undermine the language of habeas corpus. We can’t pass this onto future generations.”
Kerner says that his group has serious concerns about how far the bill will go. The recently-added section 1033 of the NDAA, titled the Habeus Corpus Act, purported to remove the section concerning some citizens about not being afforded a fair trail. But Kerner says the language is too vague and not enough.
“To see the Tea Party and Occupy come together John Lennon-style to defend the constitutional rights of Hoosiers from the NDAA of 2012 was nothing short of a miracle,” he said. “But section 1033(a) does absolutely nothing to protect our inalienable, God-given rights. It recognizes the un-constitutional practice of indefinite detention as legitimate, and does not exempt any person from the targeting profile outlined in the 2012 NDAA.”
Kerner added it was “smoke and mirrors” and since the United States is legally considered a battlefield subject to the laws of war, the section does nothing to secure people’s rights.
While states such as Wyoming have looked at passing similar bills, Young said that he would hope all states would put in language to further protect their citizens.
Originally, Sen. Jim Banks, a fellow Republican, had hoped the bill would include language making it a misdemeanor in Indiana for any federal official to indefinitely detain someone. The committee amended the bill because state law cannot over-reach federal law.
“It’s our job to protect citizens’ rights and liberties,” Young said. “We’re not under rebellion, we’re not under attack in the United States today. We may be fighting wars outside, but not here. While the Constitution foresees we sometimes have to abate our due process rights, this is not one of them.”
Young went on to express further worries related to federal government power, noting that the committee is expecting a drone bill to be introduced to the senate shortly.
“People said, ‘Oh, Congress isn’t going to use drones on American citizens,’ and what happened? We’re using drones now in this country on our own citizens,” Young said. “That’s scary stuff, and it concerns legislators.”