Protesters picketed outside Rep. Duncan Hunter’s office in El Cajon on Friday, calling for members of Congress to repeal the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 or resign.
The NDAA is the law authorizing the military budget each year. Both liberals and conservatives have attacked the version for this year’s budget, which contains elements about arresting and detaining terrorism suspects. Opponents fear that the military now has the authority to arrest American citizens within the United States and that arrestees can be detained indefinitely without due process.
There were approximately 30 people there, including five who went to support Hunter, according to Ramona Forum President Dave Patterson. Protesters included people from the Occupy Movement, Tea Party, Ramona Forum—a liberal progressive group—and a group called Kill the NDAA, he said. Among them were (Republican), (Democrat) and Michael Benoit, (Libertarian), all running for Hunter's seat. Several people spoke, including Eric Andersen (Republican) from La Mesa, Patterson said.
Hunter, speaking in Ramona on Monday, said the concerns about the NDAA are unfounded.
“You can’t trump the Constitution,” he said of the legislation, while speaking to the Intermountain Republican Women Federated.
Hunter was on the conference committee that reviewed the House and Senate bills that laid the foundation for the NDAA. President Barack Obama signed the final bill (HR1540) into law on Dec. 31, 2011. To see a full copy of the law and to read a statement about it issued by Hunter, .
The conference committee included 29 House members and 26 senators, according to Hunter aide Joe Kasper in Washington. Kasper told Patch that the detainee provisions originated in the Senate and were “ironed out” in the conference committee. He said the NDAA puts into law procedures that were already being used.
“When something isn’t codified, there can be broad interpretations,” he said. “Putting it into law strengthens it and makes it consistent. There’s 100 percent clarity on the detainee process now. Congress can go back and address any changes that might need to be made down the line. This is commonly done.”
Kasper said there’s nothing in the NDAA to say the U.S. military can arrest citizens within US borders.
“Nothing can be construed as that,” he said.
He said the claims from opponents are “over the top.”
“We’re in campaign season, so this protest should be seen in that light,” Kasper said.
“Precedent has been set that shows that a U.S. citizen overseas who is captured as a collaborator still is entitled to due process,” he said.
Kasper said Hunter “feels very strongly about this stuff.”
“If (the NDAA) had given military domestic authority to arrest, he wouldn’t have voted for it. We always have to be very careful about extending federal powers.”
Hunter served in the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.