Fresh after hanging up his campaign hat, former Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul has joined the next battle over terrorism-detainee rules.
The Texan made a surprise appearance at a House press conference in support of a bipartisan amendment to the defense authorization bill, which hits the House floor today, that would ban indefinite and military detention of anyone captured on U.S. soil, regardless of citizenship.
“I do not believe a republic can exist if you permit the military to arrest American citizens and put them in secret prisons and be denied a trial,” Paul argued.
The amendment, cosponsored by House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., with the support of Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., promises to reopen the decade-long debate over whether to prosecute terrorism suspects in federal civil courts or within the military.
Smith appeared less than fully confident he had the votes to pass the amendment, which would face clear hurdles in the Senate, but he said that most Democrats would back him and felt it was worth the shot. The White House’s veto threat did not mention these specific provisions, he said, because they are not in the original bill, but he thinks the president would support the amendment. Smith’s office is making a full-court press on this issue more than any other in the authorization bill.
“This authority that the president has has not been exercised in this country since 2003,” Smith claimed. In the few instances it was used, it didn’t work, he added. “The president does not need this authority… leaving it on the books is an unnecessary threat to our civil liberties,” he said.
Paul, with just a bit less fire than he showed in this year's presidential debates, asserted that if 9/11 planner Khalid Sheik Mohammed had been tried the same way the World Trade Center bombing terrorists were tried in 1994, he could have received a death-penalty conviction “10 years ago.”
“The system works; we should not be so intimidated,” Paul said. “This cannot stand.”