Sen. Paul Opposes NDAA After Right to Jury Trial Amendment Stripped
A travesty of justice
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the United States Senate voted on the conference report of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), which was stripped of an amendment during the House-Senate conference committee that would have guaranteed Americans the right to due process and a jury trial.
The amendment, introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and which passed with a 67-29 vote on Nov. 29, was designed to protect American citizens against indefinite detention. The conference committee, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) removed this provision, and in doing so, rendered the bill in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.
"These core American legal privileges prescribed in our Bill of Rights have been observed since our nation's founding. When I assumed office, I took an oath to protect our Constitution - and in voting against this unconstitutional NDAA, I kept that promise," Sen. Paul said.
"The right to due process, a trial by jury, and protection from indefinite detention should not be shorn from our Bill of Rights or wrested from the hands of Americans. It is a dark day in our history that these rights have been stomped upon and discarded," he continued.
The NDAA passed the Senate today with a vote of 81-14.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Paul took to the Senate floor to discuss his issues with the bill. Below is video and transcript of his speech.
I rise in opposition to this bill because I believe it contains language that would allow American citizens to be detained without trial.
Now, the other side has argued that that isn't true, that you will be eligible for your constitutional rights if you get into an Article 3 court or a constitutional court, but here's the rub. You have to be eligible. Who decides whether you are eligible for the court or not?
It's an arbitrary decision, and this is what this debate has been over. So don't let the wool be pulled over your eyes to think that you have a protection and that you will get a trial by jury if accused of a crime. We had protection in this bill, we passed an amendment that specifically said if you were an American citizen or here legally in the country, you would get a trial by jury. It was explicitly stated and it's been removed in the conference committee. It's been removed because they want the ability to hold American citizens without trial in our country.
This is so fundamentally wrong and goes against everything we stand for as a country that it can't go unnoticed and should be pointed out. Now, proponents of indefinite detention without trial say that an accusation alone is sufficient, that these crimes are so heinous the trials are unnecessary. They will show you pictures of foreigners in foreign dress from foreign lands and say that that's what this debate is about. It is untrue. This debate is about American citizens accused of crimes in the United States. Make no mistake that the faces of terrorism include awful
be drawn of domestic terrorists, of domestic terror and domestic violence. One could parade pictures of Charles Manson, of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, of Jeffrey Dahmer, and people would cry out that they don't deserve a trial either.
But when we think about it, when most Americans understand at some level that when you're accused of a crime in our country you get a trial, you get a trial by a jury of your peers, no matter how heinous your crime is, no matter how awful you are, we give you a trial. This bill takes away that right and says that if someone thinks you're dangerous, we will hold you without a trial. It's an abomination. It should not stand. Most Americans understand that you are accused of a crime doesn't make you guilty of a crime. You get your day in court.
Now, some here may not care when they determine that they are going to detain Ahmed or Yusef or Ibrahim, but many innocents are named those names. Many Americans are named Saul or David or Isaac. Is our memory so short that we don't understand the danger of allowing detention without trial? Is our memory so short that we don't understand the havoc that bias and bigotry can do when unrestrained by law? Your trial by jury is your last defense against tyranny, your last defense against oppression. We have locked up Arabs, we have locked up Jews, we have locked up the Japanese. Do you not want to retain your right to trial by jury? Do you want to allow the whims of government to come forward and lock up who they please without being tried?
In our not too distant past, Americans named Ozaki or Ichiro or Aruki were indefinitely detained by the tens of thousands, without trial, without accusation. Will America only begin to regret our loss of trial by jury when the people have names like smith and jones? But mark your word, this is about people named smith and jones or people named David or Saul or Isaac or Ahmed or Ibrahim. This is about all Americans and whether or not you will have due process, whether or not you will have the protections of the law. We are told these people are so evil and so dangerous that we can't allow trials, but trial by jury is who we are. Trial by jury is that shining beacon on a hill that people around the world wish to emulate.
It's why people came here. It's why we are exceptional as a people. It isn't the color of our skin. It's our ideas. It's the right to trial by jury that is looked to as a beacon of hope for people around the world, and we're willing to discard it out of fear. It's a shame to scrap the very rights that make us exceptional as a people. Proponents of indefinite detention will argue that we are a good people and that we will never unjustly detain people. I don't dispute their intentions or impute bad motives to them, but what I will say is remember what Madison said. Madison said that if a government were comprised of angels, we wouldn't need the chains of the constitution.
We wouldn't need to bind your representatives and restrain them from doing bad things to good people if men were angels, if all men in government were angels, we wouldn't need these rules, but all men in government aren't angels now and never will be, and there is always the danger that someday, someone will be elected who would take the rights away of the Japanese. It happened once. Who would take the rights away of Jews, the rights away of Arabs?
We are told by these people who believe in indefinite detention that the battle is everywhere. Now, if the battle is everywhere, your liberties are nowhere. If the battle is without end, when will they return your liberties? When will your rights be restored if the battle has no end and the battlefield is limitless and the war is endless? When will your rights be restored? It is not a temporary or limited suspension of your right to trial by jury but an unlimited, unbounded relinquishment of the right to trial by jury without length or duration. We are told that limiting the right to trial by jury is justified under the law of war. Am I the only one uncomfortable applying the law of war to American citizens accused of crimes in the United States? Is the law of war a euphemism for martial law? What is the law of war except something to go around the Constitution? It is an extraordinary circumstance that might happen in a battlefield somewhere else but should not happen in the United States.
Every American accused of a crime, no matter how heinous, should get their day in court, should get a trial by jury of their peers. These are not idle questions. I believe that defense of the bill of rights trumps the concerns for speedy passage even of a bill which I generally support. 67 senators voted just a few weeks ago to include a provision in this bill that says you have a right to trial by jury, and it was plucked out in secret, in conference despite the wishes of two-thirds of the Senators in this body, Republican and Democrat, who were concerned about protecting the right to a jury trial.
Many Senators say oh well, we tried, we lost, they outmaneuvered us, they were sneakier than we were. I disagree, though, that we give up. I think the time is now. I think we make a statement. The fight is today. The subject is too dear. If a majority were today to stand up and say ‘you know what? The right to a trial by jury is important enough to delay the Defense Authorization bill for two weeks,' I think it would be an important message to send. So today I stand and urge a no vote on what I consider to be a travesty of justice.