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Photo credit: watchingfrogsboil (Creative Commons)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The “Washington State Preservation of Liberty Act” introduced on Wednesday condemns and criminalizes the use of the 2012 NDAA‘s provision purportedly authorizing the indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens.


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After news of H.B. 1581′s introduction caught wind, an Internet campaign went viral asking activists to contact their Washington state representatives to co-sponsor the legislation.

It worked.

In less than 24 hours, the number of the bill’s co-sponsors tripled.

Many believe the bill’s success hinges on bipartisanship. While only one of the original sponsors of the bill is a Democrat, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, eight of the later co-sponsors are also House Democrats, making for a fairly even split of nine to 12.

The sister bill in the State Senate, S.B. 5511, was also introduced on Wednesday by Sen. Bob Hosegawa (D) with one co-sponsor, Sen. Maralyn Chase (D).

With this legislation, lawmakers strive to make Washington the fourth state to pass a law in response to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

This state’s legislation focuses primarily on Sec. 1021 of the 2012 NDAA to make its case.

The bill points out the ability of the president to use armed forces to detain terror suspects at his discretion.


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H.B. 1581, Sec. 2. (7):

Section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA purports to authorize, but does not require, the president of the United States to utilize the armed forces of the United States to detain persons the president suspects were part of [terrorist organizations.]

The bill continues, outlining what the 2012 NDAA grants the president to do with such captured individuals:

(a) Indefinite detention without charge or trial until the end of hostilities authorized by the 2001 authorization for use of military force against terrorists, 2001 P.L. 107-40, (b) prosecution through a military commission, or (c) transfer to a foreign country or foreign entity;

While U.S. citizens aren’t mentioned in this language, what makes Section 1021 a problem for U.S. citizens is not what it says; it’s what it doesn’t say, according to Sec. 2. (9):

Section 1021, unlike section 1022 of the 2012 NDAA, makes no specific exclusion for United States citizens and lawful resident aliens for conduct occurring within the United States;

Some would argue this omission does not imply permission. However, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham disagree, asserting that 2012 NDAA’s indefinite detention provision applies to U.S. citizens.

H.B. 1581, Sec. 2. (13) (e):

United States Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham declared in colloquies on the floor of the United States senate that section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA authorized the indefinite detention of United States citizens captured within the United States by the armed forces of the United States;

The Preservation of Liberty Act has now been referred to the House’s Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Rep. Roger Goodman (D) and the Senate’s Committee on Law & Justice, chaired by Sen. Mike Padden (R).

Both await the appointment of a hearing which rests in the hands of the respective committees’ chairmen.

Last year’s version of the bill died in committee, so supporters are urged by activists to pressure the chairmen of the committees to act while the tide is high.

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