Levin Floor Statement on Compromise Detainee Language in NDAA

Thursday, December 1, 2011

WASHINGTON – Below is an unofficial transcript of remarks by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on a bipartisan compromise regarding detainee language in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012:

“Mr. President, we're going to be soon voting on two amendments. The first amendment that I propose, the first Feinstein amendment, restricts the authority that was available and is available currently to the president of the United States under the laws of war. That authority is if an American citizen joins a hostile army against us takes up arms against us, that that person can be determined to be a combat, an enemy combatant. That is not me saying, that's the Constitution. That is the Supreme Court of the United States in the Hamdi case, and I quote, 'there is no bar to this nation's holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant.'

“The problem with the Feinstein amendment is that current authority of the president to find and designate an American citizen who attacks us, who comes to our land and attacks us as an enemy combatant would be restricted. We should not restrict the availability of that power in the president. Now we have an alternative. Now in the second Feinstein amendment which I ask unanimous consent to be a cosponsor of, in the second amendment we have an alternative. Now it would provide the assurance that we are not adversely affecting the rights of United States citizens in this language.

“Senator McCain, Senator Graham, and I have argued on this floor that there's nothing in our bill, nothing, which changes the rights of United States citizens. There was no intent to do it, we did not do it. And what the second Feinstein amendment provides is that nothing in this section of our bill shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of the United States citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States. It makes clear what we have been saying, this language already does, which is not affect existing law relative to the right of the executive branch to capture and detain a citizen if that law is there allowing it, it remains. If as some argue the law does not allow that, then it continues that way. We think the law is clear in Hamdi that there is no bar to this nation holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant and we make clear whatever the law is, it is unaffected by this language in our bill.”