Mark Udall Continues His Push Against Indefinite Detention Policy

A key Democratic senator is actively continuing to try to defeat provisions in a defense bill which would allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens captured by the military, including those taken on U.S. soil.

As a member of the conference committee tasked with hammering out differences between the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado continues to press an influential proponent of the detentions policy to try to reach some compromise.

At issue is legislation buried within the NDAA which would allow the U.S. military to capture and imprison civilians — without any charge or trial — including American citizens, anywhere in the world, including on U.S. soil. An annual bill, the overall NDAA authorizes by law the government’s defense and national security activities.

Udall tried unsuccessfully last week to have the indefinite detentions language stripped from the overall bill. President Obama has threatened a rare veto of the NDAA over the detentions provisions.

Udall on Friday sent Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) a letter urging Levin to change course. The powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin is a key backer of the detentions provisions.

“Although I have no doubt that the provisions were drafted with the best of intentions, I remain deeply concerned about the potential for unintended consequences that could impede our ability to track, investigate, capture, and exploit terrorism suspects,” Udall wrote to Levin. “Therefore, I respectfully ask that you seek to address the following points during the conference negotiations and modify the language of the provisions as needed to protect national security and the constitutional liberties of American citizens.”

Udall says in his letter that he submitted to Levin alternate language which “may help to resolve some of the concerns and ambiguity associated” with the current indefinite detentions provisions.

The secretary of defense, director of national intelligence, and the directors of the FBI and CIA all have expressed concern that the provisions — intended to clarify our policy on detaining accused terrorists — would actually disrupt ongoing law enforcement investigations of terrorists and hinder cooperation between law enforcement and the military. National security and civil liberties experts have also raised serious concerns that the provisions would permit the military to detain American citizens without trial as a serious erosion of the Constitution.


Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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