House committee looks at measure that advocates individual rights

TOPEKA — A Kansas House of Representative committee discussed a resolution Wednesday that proponents said advocates for individual rights threatened by the federal government.

The Veterans, Military and Homeland Security committee held a hearing on HR 6021, which opposes the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Barack Obama.

According to the resolution, the NDAA allows the “arrest, detention and rendition of American citizens without trial.”

Even if passed, the resolution would have no effect on the federal law.

“It’s just a statement,” said Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita. “It doesn’t change anything other than make a statement on what the position of the House is.”

Still, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Charlotte O’Hara, R-Overland Park, said it was an important first step in opposing the bill.

“A whisper is better than nothing,” she said.

The NDAA is enacted each year to appropriate military funding and authorize military activities. Obama signed this year’s 565-page bill on Dec. 31, 2011.

Goico said the NDAA extended the powers given to President Bush in 2001 to the Obama Administration. O’Hara said she introduced the resolution because it is time “get back what the state’s and individual’s rights are in this country.”

“As our federal government continually encroaches, we absolutely have to say no more,” she said. “Obamacare is an excellent example.”

Along with providing $662 billion in defense funding for the fiscal year, the bill contained two controversial provisions. According to a 25-page memo drafted by the Kansas Legislative Research Department, one provision, Section 1021, affirms the authority given to the president in 2001 to detain persons implicated in the 9/11 attacks or who is “a part of or substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces.” Section 1022 of the bill allows the military detention of any person covered by Section 1021 or who “participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.”

According to the same memo, critics argue that the provisions do not extend protection for United States citizens or lawful residents. They also argue the executive branch will determine which people meet the criteria and that terms in the bill are undefined.

However, the memo cited several sources, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that stated the NDAA does not grant any new powers to detain U.S. citizens. The ACLU does advocate ending the 2001 authorization extended in Section 1021 when combat operations end in Afghanistan.

Obama has stated his administration will interpret the bill in accordance to “the constitution, laws of war and other applicable laws,” according to the memo.

Because of the high number of people wishing to speak, testimony was limited to five minutes. The hearing is expected to continue into today’s committee meeting.