Representative Candace Miller (R-MI) has introduced H.R. 4415, the Terrorist Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010. The bill expands the definition of unlawful enemy combatant, codified at 10 U.S.C. § 948 to include persons determined by the President to be closely associated with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, to have taken up arms on behalf of Al Qaeda, or to have committed or conspired to commit acts of terrorism in the United States. Most significantly, it would apply “regardless of the location of the person’s capture.” The bill would give the President the authority to detain any unlawful enemy combatant for military purposes “until the President determines that the individual is no longer a threat to the United States or its allies.”
On Christmas Day, the War on Terror came to the skies of Southeast Michigan. As Northwest flight 253 was on final approach from Amsterdam to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate high explosives that were brought on board the aircraft . . . . This was another act of war perpetrated by an agent of our terrorist enemies. After he was captured, this terrorist was . . . then turned over to the Justice Department where he was give Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent, has been arraigned on criminal charges and bound over for trial in civilian court with full Constitutional Rights. This is simply the wrong way to fight our terrorist enemies.
This bill is being introduced amidst the continuing debate about how Abdulmutallab’s arrest and post-arrest treatment were handled by authorities. Many critics of the Obama administration challenged the use of civilian courts to try Abdulmutallab, in part claiming that he ceased providing valuable intelligence after being read his Miranda rights. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter in response outlining his reasons for bringing criminal charges against Abdulmutallab. Among other arguments, AG Holder noted:
Some have argued that had Abdulmutallab been declared an enemy combatant, the government could have held him indefinitely without providing him access to an attorney. But the government’s legal authority to do so is far from clear. . . . In fact, there is no court-approved system currently in place in which suspected terrorists captured inside the United States can be detained and held without access to an attorney. . . .
H.R. 4415, if passed, would give the government the explicit authority to detain unlawful enemy combatants outside of the criminal justice system. Rep. Miller argues for this authority because “There’s no difference whether we apprehend a terrorist in Afghanistan or Yemen or Iraq. In this case, the battlefield was in seat 19A on that Northwest flight.”
The bill has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee.