Friday, March 09, 2012
Bill advances on prohibiting arrests without charges, trial
But Gov. Bob McDonnell has taken steps to defeat it, a senator who helped draft the bill said.
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From The Roanoke Times
Correction (March 10, 2012: 3:47 p.m.): The fourth and fifth paragraphs of this story have been corrected to attribute comments about Gov. Bob McDonnell's attempts to defeat HB 1160 to Del. Bob Marshall. | Our corrections policy
RICHMOND — A bill that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from making an arrest in violation of the U.S. Constitution passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell.
HB 1160 is sponsored by Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, one of the state's most conservative legislators and the author of many anti-abortion bills. His bill has drawn an unlikely amalgam of liberal and conservative supporters, from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Occupy movement to various tea party groups.
Marshall's bill would prohibit state and local officers from enforcing a provision of the 2012 federal National Defense Authorization Act, which allows for the arrest and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without charges or trial.
Marshall said McDonnell has quietly tried to defeat it, in part because of his national aspirations. McDonnell has endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the presidential race and is considered a potential vice presidential nominee.
Opponents of Marshall's bill in the House "bent over backwards" to accommodate McDonnell's vice presidential aspirations when they attempted to defeat the measure with a parliamentary maneuver, Marshall said.
Jeff Caldwell, a McDonnell spokesman, declined to address Petersen's accusation but confirmed that the governor has concerns about the bill.
"While the governor does not condone the unlawful detention of U.S. citizens, he has concerns about the impact, whether intended or not, this legislation would have on Joint Terrorism Task Forces of which state and local agencies are members, information sharing by and with the Virginia State Police and local law enforcement, and the impact on our Virginia National Guard personnel," Caldwell said.
The bill was opposed by Del. Barbara Comstock, R-Fairfax County, a former Justice Department employee who lost her best friend, conservative TV commentator Barbara Olson, in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"This bill jeopardizes our national defense and information sharing," she said.
Marshall said the federal law violates the U.S. Constitution by suspending habeas corpus — the right to file a petition to ask a court to have a prisoner released. That right generally can be suspended only in case of an invasion by an enemy or a rebellion.
President Barack Obama has said he would never enforce that provision of the bill, Marshall said, but "why should we give that power to any president?"
After Marshall's bill passed the House, 96-4, and the Senate, 39-1, Comstock led an effort to kill the measure. She proposed the House reject a Senate amendment and instead send it to a conference committee, which she hoped would not act on the bill.
Her motion passed, 51-48.
Sen. Chap Petersen,Del D-Fairfax County, who helped Marshall draft the bill, resurrected it when he asked the Senate to remove its amendment. The Senate voted 37-1 Thursday to do so. That means the bill goes directly to McDonnell.
Comstock is a former public affairs officer with the Justice Department. Her friend Olson was on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
Before she died, Olson managed to call her husband, Ted Olson, solicitor general during the Bush administration, and give him details of the hijacking.
Comstock said information on terrorists had filtered to various law enforcement agencies but was not shared with others. Had it been shared, the 9/11 attacks might have been stopped, she said.
Some Japanese-American groups, cognizant of the detention of many Japanese Americans during World War II, have endorsed the bill.
Del. Mark Keam, a Fairfax County Democrat who is of Asian descent, said never again should Americans be forcibly detained because of appearance or the language they speak.
Keam said Marshall's bill preserves strong law enforcement and at the same time protects Virginians from an overbearing government.
By passing the bill, he said, "we are putting Virginia on the right side of history."