On Tuesday, I wrote about the National Defense Authorization Act, which drew a protest from a Watertown man because Rep. Bill Owens voted for it. That protestor — and the American Civil Liberties Union — are concerned about a provision that they say can lead to indefinite detention of American citizens.
Mr. Owens doesn't agree with that, but Matt Doheny, of Watertown, and Kellie Greene, of Sackets Harbor, both signaled concerns when I asked their campaigns. They're looking to take on Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, in the November general election. If both get on the ballot, a primary would occur June 26.
Mr. Doheny said he would have supported the NDAA, because of the vital military programs that it provided, but would have worked to repeal the detention provisions. He also criticized Mr. Owens for supporting cuts to defense spending — that's one area for Mr. Doheny, who talks a lot about the need to bring spending under control, will not support cutting.
Ms. Greene did not directly address whether or not she would have voted for the NDAA, but shared the concerns about detention provisions.
The statements are in full below.
“I believe, as our Founding Fathers did, that one of the federal government’s top priorities is to provide for the common defense. Congress must shrink the size of government, but I feel strongly that a $1 trillion cut to defense spending is inappropriate and dangerous.
“President Obama’s decision to abandon our nation’s long-held two-war strategy will result in reductions of more than 100,000 well-trained troops, while leaving us insufficiently prepared for potential attacks.
“Our current congressman’s silence on these reductions is telling. He should be angered by these cuts, as they lessen our ability to mount a strong defense and keep a robust ground force. Instead, he’s naively telling the media that the president’s new strategy – and its accompanying cuts – will not adversely impact Fort Drum.
“America has established itself as a global leader by creating a strong military presence both here and overseas. That power provides a good deal of economic security and strengthens our ties with like-minded allies who can augment our military forces.
“President Obama’s cuts – as well as those to be made as a result of Congress’ failure to make cuts in domestic spending – will reduce our ground force to the smallest level it’s been since before World War II. Our Navy acts as a deterrent to our enemies while also protecting free and open trade. But if these cuts are allowed to stand, our fleet will be at the smallest it’s been since World War I, making it potentially unable to provide a rapid response in times of conflict.
“Like some, I am opposed to language in the National Defense Authorization Act that could be used to indefinitely detain American citizens. I am skeptical that this section of the law will not be broadly interpreted and abused. If this section were its own stand-alone bill, I would have strongly opposed it. And, when elected, I will advocate for its repeal in a separate bill.
“However, we must acknowledge reality. The Act provided $662 billion in needed funding for our military. That figure includes $54 million in new construction and upgrades at Fort Drum, which would create an estimated 340 jobs.
“We must provide all we can – training, weapons and equipment – for our soldiers in combat zones overseas. But we also bear an equally important responsibility to our soldiers’ families and dependents, who have also sacrificed for our country. This funding bill would expand outpatient services, dental clinic hours and airport accommodations for those stationed at Fort Drum. All are needed.”
“I want to keep Fort Drum strong. I want to keep our military strong. And to do that, we must fund these essential programs. So I would have supported the Act, as presented.”
"The National Defense Authorization Act is done every year to authorize the budget for the Department of Defense. The difference this time is in the additional provisions that go far beyond the norm and gives the military authority to engage in civil law enforcement. While it is intended for terror suspects that are apprehended on US soil, because the war on terror is not a war on a specific state (nation), it has no parameters or timetable and could be used to detain, forever, anyone that the government considers a threat to national security. That is where the concerns lie. Many fear that this could lead to a police state situation with American’s being detained and in violation of their constitutional rights. It seems to give far too much power to the executive branch and while Mr. Obama has stated that his administration would not authorize the indefinite military detention of American Citizens without a trial, there is nothing that assures American’s that future administrations won’t. So the question is whether this is in violation to the constitution or not. Many have argued that it is but it should also be pointed out that there are provisions in it, namely on page 657 as Rep. Allen West has detailed, that protect American Citizens. The NDAA could be in violation of the constitution in a few different ways, such as the 14th Amendment with respect to equal protection under the law, and the 5th and 6th Amendments by suspending due process and habeas corpus. The concern that I have is that while I am a strong supporter of the need for stronger national security, does this give the government too much power and authority and does it strip away the rights that are protected for American Citizens under the constitution? While we need to fund our military, and we need a strong national defense, we do not need to do so at the expense of our constitutional liberties."