A Message from Charlie Gonzalez on NDAA

Dear Mr. Perry:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with me about the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, H.R. 1540. It is great to hear your thoughts on this important issue.

H.R. 1540 is a critical must-pass bill that authorizes spending levels for our national defense, including our Armed Forces currently stationed abroad. Not approving this measure would have meant that thousands of hardworking soldiers would have gone without pay. Nevertheless, new controversial terrorist detainee provisions included in the bill has sparked much debate and I will therefore focus my response on that issue.

The focal argument pertains to how to properly and effectively manage detainees. More importantly, however, is whether such detainee policies adhere to our nation’s constitutional parameters, values and principles. A major concern revolves around the fact that currently detainees may be held indefinitely without trial or even despite an eventual acquittal by a military tribunal. Ensuring that those detained in Guantanamo Bay are properly processed has been a top priority for President Obama. Given the stringent language included in the original version of H.R. 1540, the White House issued a veto threat.

The final version of H.R. 1540 was modified to clarify some of the controversial provisions. For example, some of the language was altered to underscore the fact that the provisions could not be applied to U.S. citizens. In the President’s signing statement, a tool often used to clarify the purpose or intent of a bill, President Obama stated that “under no circumstances will my administration accept or adhere to a rigid across-the-board requirement for military detention.” Moreover, he stated that his administration would “therefore interpret and implement section 1022 in the manner that best preserves the same flexible approach that has served us so well for the past three years and that protects the ability of law enforcement professionals to obtain the evidence and cooperation they need to protect the nation.”

In the end I voted in favor of this measure because ultimately our nation could not afford to abandon the thousands of men and women risking their lives to protect our nation. I believe that in the interest of maintaining good relations with many of the nations whose citizens are being detained at Guantanamo Bay and other parts of the world, the detainees’ status should be clarified. It is also vital, in order to keep the antiterrorism coalition intact, that the US abides by international treaties which stipulate that suspected criminals cannot be detained forever without being officially charged.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future regarding any of your legislative concerns.

Charles A. Gonzalez
Member of Congress