Bill OK’D buck­ing U.S. law on cit­i­zen de­ten­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

RICH­MOND | The Virginia Se­nate on Thurs­day gave final ap­proval to a bill that would pre­vent any state agency from as­sist­ing in the de­ten­tion of U.S. cit­i­zens if it con­flicts with the U.S. or state Con­sti­tu­tion — a di­rect re­sponse to a con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sion of Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2012 Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act.

The bill, in­tro­duced by Del­e­gate Robert G. Mar­shall, Prince Wil­liam Re­pub­li­can, states that Virginia will not par­tic­i­pate in un­law­fully de­tain­ing res­i­dents un­der the act. Un­der some in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the law, the U.S. mil­i­tary would be al­lowed to de­tain cit­i­zens in­def­i­nitely on Amer­i­can soil.

Mr. Obama is­sued a state­ment when he signed the bill on New Year’s Eve say­ing he dis­agreed with pro­vi­sions in the law. He later is­sued a state­ment say­ing he would not au­tho­rize the in­def­i­nite mil­i­tary de­ten­tion of U.S. cit­i­zens with­out trial. He nev­er­the­less drew fire for leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­ity for fu­ture ad­min­is­tra­tions to make ne­far­i­ous use of the law.

“When Barack Obama, the ACLU, Bob Mar­shall and the John Birch So­ci­ety agree on some­thing, pay at­ten­tion,” Mr. Mar­shall said. “This is Kafkaesque.”

The mea­sure took a tor­tur­ous route to its final pas­sage Thurs­day. It cleared the House by a 96-4 vote last month, and a sim­i­lar ver­sion passed the Se­nate 39-1.

An amended Se­nate ver­sion was then re­jected by the House, with 51 mem­bers of the 100-mem­ber cham­ber vot­ing against it. Rather than in­sist on that ver­sion, crafted by Sen. J. Chap­man “Chap” Petersen, Fair­fax Demo­crat, the Se­nate on Thurs­day backed off the amended ver­sion. That al­lowed the bill to go to Gov. Bob Mcdon­nell in­stead of to a con­fer­ence, where it could be killed qui­etly.

“The un­law­ful de­ten­tion of US cit­i­zens is wrong, and here in the Com­mon­wealth we will never as­sist in the de­ten­tion of oth­ers, no mat­ter the state of war that we may be in, or no mat­ter the emer­gency,” Mr. Petersen said in a state­ment.

The bill’s pas­sage cre­ates a some­what tricky po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion for Virginia’s Re­pub­li­can gov­er­nor, who has not in­di­cated whether he plans to sign the tea-par­ty­backed leg­is­la­tion.

Sign­ing the Virginia bill could be seen as con­tra­dict­ing the po­si­tion of pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney, who has said he would sign the fed­eral act. Mr. Mcdon­nell has been ag­gres­sively cam­paign­ing for Mr. Rom­ney and could be on his short­list of po­ten­tial vice-pres­i­den­tial picks.

“While the Gov­er­nor does not con­done the un­law­ful de­ten­tion of US cit­i­zens, we do have con­cerns about the im­pact, whether in­tended or not, this leg­is­la­tion would have on Joint Ter­ror­ism Task Forces of which state and lo­cal agen­cies are mem­bers, in­for­ma­tion shar­ing by and with the Virginia State Po­lice and lo­cal law en­force­ment, and the im­pact on our Virginia Na­tional Guard per­son­nel,” Mcdon­nell spokesman J. Tucker Martin said in a state­ment.

The is­sue has be­come a light­ning rod even among Repub­li­cans. Mr. Rom­ney was booed at one pres­i­den­tial de­bate af­ter say­ing he would sign the act. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, mean­while, has re­peat­edly as­sailed the law as un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Virginia’s GOP con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion split on the vote in De­cem­ber.

Rep. James P. Mo­ran Jr., Virginia Demo­crat, said that although the act con­tains im­por­tant pro­vi­sions for na­tional de­fense, it is a “grave mis­take” to al­low the gov­ern­ment to de­tain ter­ror­ism sus­pects with­out charge or trial in mil­i­tary pris­ons.

“It takes lit­tle imag­i­na­tion to con­sider how such a pol­icy might be grossly mis­used against in­no­cent peo­ple by fu­ture ad­min­is­tra­tions,” he said.

Mr. Mar­shall’s bill united a mot­ley crew of sup­port­ers across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, rang­ing from tea-party ac­tivists to the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

The Ja­panese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League sent a let­ter to state leg­is­la­tors point­ing to the more than 110,000 Ja­panese-amer­i­cans de­tained dur­ing World War II.

“Virginia has the op­por­tu­nity to stand up to an un­just ap­pli­ca­tion of Con­gres­sional au­thor­ity,” the let­ter reads. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple need some­body to stand up against this in­jus­tice.”

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