We are heartened that Montana Sen. Max Baucus is opposing two provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which strike at the heart of our constitutional protections for a fair justice system.
Those two provisions would authorize indefinite detention of American citizens without any charges and without a trial (Section 1031) and require that all terrorism suspects be held in military custody (Section 1032).
In a letter to top Congressional leaders, Sen. Baucus states his opposition to both sections. Indefinite detention, he says, "violates basic American Constitutional principles" and "is contrary to the nature of the system of checks and balances the authors of our Constitution considered essential to the preservation of liberty."
As for mandatory military custody of terrorism suspects, Sen. Baucus notes that the federal court system works and should be available for these cases. He points out that since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 400 terrorism suspects have pleaded guilty or been convicted in federal courts. To move all those cases to the military would be foolish.
We couldn't agree more. Forcing all these cases into the military system would hinder F.B.I. investigations and agents' ability to disrupt plots. And as Sen. Baucus points out, it's unnecessary since civil courts have a track record of success. Military tribunals, on the other hand, have a record of failure.
And indefinite detention without judicial review is an appalling abuse of power. We know that our government has already mistakenly detained hundreds of people on suspicion of terrorism over the past 10 years. Many have languished in custody for years with no way to even assert their innocence or address the evidence against them. All people are entitled to due process.