Former Security Officials: Outlawing Indefinite Detention for Suspects Would ‘Reward Terrorists’

Officials Argue Guaranteeing Trial 'Unconstitutional'

In an open-ended war spanning the entire planet, officials have had plenty of time to make outlandish proclamations. Today, a letter (PDF) form several former security officials took a stab at being the most galling such statement so far in the war.

The letter, addressed to the House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R – CA), attacks the recent efforts by Reps. Adam Smith (D – WA) and Justin Amash (R – MI) to roll back the “indefinite detention without charges in military custody” portion of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.

The letter argues that any change in the law that would restrict the ability of the federal government to indefinitely detain suspects without charges would amount to “rewarding terrorists” and would make terror attacks more likely. It goes on to claim that removing the law would be unconstitutional because—and get this—it would restrict the president’s ability to “fulfill his constitutional duties as commander in chief.”

Rep. Smith defended the efforts to ensure that people arrested actually eventually get to a court, saying that the letter was “disingenuous and purely political.” Though Congress cheerfully passed the NDAA by a wide margin, a massive public backlash against the law has a number of its former proponents looking for cover, and fearing that their support for indefinite detention could harm their reelection.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.