At last Friday’s ABNY breakfast, The Politicker asked Senator Kirsten Gillibrand about the protests she faced earlier this month over her support for this year’s National Defense Appropriations Act, which contained a provision that would allow the government to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens accused of terrorism. Senator Gillibrand, who voted for two amendments that would have changed the controversial provision, said the concerns of the protesters were “legitimate” and vowed to “keep fighting” for civil liberties.
“It’s a very complex bill, but the provision that people are upset about, I share their concerns,” Senator Gillibrand said.
Though Senator Gillibrand initially voted for the NDAA, which provides the military with $662 billion in funding for the current fiscal year, she subsequently voted for an amendment sponsored by Colorado Senator Mark Udall that called for Congressional hearings reviewing the procedures for detaining terrorism suspects. Senator Gillibrand also voted for an amendment sponsored by California Senator Dianne Feinstein that would have limited military custody of terrorism detainees to those captured abroad. Both amendments were eventually defeated.
“I worked very hard with Mark Udall and Senator Feinstein to make sure that American’s rights are guaranteed and that they cannot be thrown into a jail and never heard from again. We want our basic civil rights, we want our basic human rights,” Senator Gillibrand said.
After a veto threat from President Barack Obama, the Senate added provisions to the NDAA clarifying that nothing in the bill would affect ”existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the FBI or any other domestic law enforcement agency” to deal with a captured suspect “regardless of whether such … person is held in military custody.”
Senator Gillibrand said these changes made her feel comfortable moving forward on the bill, but she promised to continue working to ensure civil liberties of American citizens are protected.
“We were able to get the bill into a place where all current U.S. law is relevant and is the deciding factor, and so we felt there was enough protections to move forward,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep fighting on the issue and making sure those protections are guaranteed.”