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Schiff questions detainments

Ryan Carter

A local legislator’s effort to create more congressional oversight

over the Justice Department’s detainment of so-called “enemy

combatants” has passed a key hurdle.


An amendment to the Department of Justice Reauthorization Bill

introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) passed the House Judiciary

Committee last week.

Schiff’s amendment requires an annual report from U.S. Atty. Gen.


John Ashcroft detailing how many U.S. citizens and residents are

detained, and establishes standards for designating someone as an

enemy combatant.

“I think the issue of greatest concern in the domestic war on

terrorism, from a civil liberties point of view, is the detention of

American citizens without access to counsel or judicial review,”

Schiff said.

Schiff’s introduction of the legislation has come in response to


the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and is a reaction to Justice

Department efforts to deal with newer technology that criminals use

to commit crimes. Schiff said he was responding to legal questions

that have surrounded the detainment of people like Jose Padilla, a

Bronx-born U.S. citizen who has been classified by federal

law-enforcement officials as an enemy combatant and detained in South

Carolina. Born in the Bronx and arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare

International Airport, Padilla stands accused of planning to build a


“dirty bomb,” a crude bomb that when detonated spreads radioactive


Schiff has supported such legislation as the Patriot Act, which

puts more teeth into law enforcement. But he said his amendments are

an effort to fill the civil liberties gaps in recent legislation.

“Along with those strengths in law-enforcement tools comes a

greater responsibility of the Congress to see how they are using

those tools,” he said.

In February, Schiff introduced the Detention of Enemy Combatants

Act. The act requires all detainees be granted access to counsel and

due process of law. It would establish criteria for the labeling and

detention of enemy combatants.

It would also guarantee timely access to judicial review, counsel

and the ability to challenge the basis for a detention.

Congress would maintain the oversight of detention of U.S.

citizens and lawful residents. That legislation is pending before the

Judiciary and Armed Services committees.