A Republican assemblyman wants to make it a crime in California to enforce a federal law that allows terror suspects to be detained indefinitely, even when no charges have been filed.
Assembly Bill 351 by Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks would allow federal or state officials to be charged with a misdemeanor if they enforce the federal detention law in California.
Assembly Bill 351 must pass by a two-thirds margin in each house of the Legislature to reach Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. The supermajority requirement poses a major obstacle for a GOP lawmaker in a Democrat-dominated Legislature.
Donnelly said that detaining suspects indefinitely violates constitutional and law enforcement rights to due process, speedy trials by an impartial jury, and freedom from unreasonable searches and cruel or unusual punishments.
"I'm absolutely committed to wiping out terrorism, but we must safeguard our constitutional rights," Donnelly said.
"I'm not trying to stop the federal government from doing their job, I'm trying to stop them from an overreach of power," he said.
If AB 351 had been in effect during World War II, it would have prohibited Japanese-Americans to be forced into internment camps, Donnelly said.
Under AB 351, federal officials who violate it could be sentenced to one year in jail and fined $10,000. State violators would be subject to a lighter maximum sentence - six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
President Barack Obama signed the indefinite detention law as part of a wide-ranging National Defense Authorization Act that totaled more than 500 pages. He expressed reservations about the measure's detention powers, however, in acting on the bill in December 2011.
"I have signed the Act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families, and vital national security programs that must be renewed," Obama said in a signing statement at the time.
Obama pledged that he would not authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, and he said he signed the legislation only after determining that his administration had "broad authority to determine how best to implement it."
Obama vowed to implement the provisions "in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded."
If the provisions prove to be unworkable, Obama said, he would move to repeal or revise them.
PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, talks with fellow lawmakers at the Capitol in 2012. in 2012. Associated Press//Rich Pedroncelli