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Commissioners fields questions on the NDAA
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The Clearfield County Commissioners declined to give an opinion on a controversial piece of federal legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 at this time but offered to hold a meeting to give both sides on the issue a forum to discuss the issue.
The NDAA, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 31, provided $662 billion in funding for the military as well as counter-terrorism efforts overseas.
However, opponents of the law claim it also gives the president and the federal government the power to detain American citizens indefinitely without the benefit of a trial however, proponents disagree.
Commissioner John Sobel said several citizens have asked the commissioners to weigh in on the issue and pass a resolution asking Congress to reconsider some of the language in the new law and have it clarify that it does not deny citizens their rights to Habeas Corpus.
However, instead of passing a resolution stating the commissioners' opinion on the matter, Sobel said the commissioners would instead offer to hold a public meeting in the near future to give both sides the ability to speak directly to each other on the matter instead of indirectly through the media.
John Balliet of Taxpayers United for Representation Now said he too would like clarifying language added saying the language included in the law is too vague. He said it should be done to assuage the fears of some that the federal government is not taking away their constitutionally granted liberties.
Beverly Dawes of DuBois argued that the NDAA is an illegal intrusion of states rights by the federal government and urged the commissioners to pass the resolution.
She also said she believes Obama wants the authority given to him in the NDAA because he wants to become a king or dictator.
Sobel said the commissioners have researched the matter and said there is a disagreement among experts and political leaders in both parties on what authority the disputed language gives the federal government and noted that President Obama himself expressed misgivings over some of its language when he signed it into law.
Sobel said the commissioners spoke to U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-5 of Howard, who said such fears are unfounded and released the following statement.
"Some have claimed that authority under these sections could lead to the unlawful detention of U.S. Citizens without due process, with all due respect to anybody holding this view, such claims are categorically false and based on misinformation."
Sobel said Thompson is also in the process of drafting an article stating his opinion on the matter.
When he signed the bill, Obama released a lengthy statement that expressed some misgivings some of the language in it.
"The fact that I support the bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.
Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable."
"Moreover, I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war and all other applicable law."
The statement was taken from a press release issued by The White House Office of the Press Secretary on the website whitehouse.gov.
When asked by The Progress how the NDAA relates to the county commissioners, Sobel said it doesn't other than there are some in the community who want the commissioners to voice their opinion against it. He said some believe the county sheriff's department could be used to enforce the provisions in the law.
However, Sobel said this might be true in some states, but in Pennsylvania this probably isn't so because in this state sheriff's departments are officers of the court and are not the main form of law enforcement in a county as they are in some other states.
Last December the U.S. Senate approved the NDAA on an 86-13 vote and the U.S. House of Representatives passed it on a vote of 283-136.
In other business:
• The commissioners voted unanimously to wish Ray Walker of Bigler a happy 100th birthday.
Walker turned 100 years old yesterday, according to Sobel.
Walker is the founder of Bradford Coal, which would later be named Bradford Energy and Sobel said he has been active in the community and local politics since the 1930s.
"We look forward to having Ray Walker around for a very long time," Sobel said.
Sobel said the commissioners would be presenting him with a certificate at a future date.
The commissioners voted to:
• approve the following personnel changes. New hires, Kirt McGary, part-time corrections officer; transfers Kathey Shimmel, DC III/Assessment to mapper/assessment.
Resignations include Coleen Bainey, caseworker with Children Youth and Family Services, and Jason Pudleiner, assistant public defender.
Family medical leave requests, Justin Butterworth, telecommunicator/911 March 11-March 27 and Kylie Collins, telecommunicator/911 March 27-May 8.
• appoint Kristen Vida to the Area Transportation Authority.
• approve the agreement between the county and Susquehanna Fire Equipment for the inspection of the county's sprinkler systems.
• approve the preferred carrier change and the purchase order with Verizon. Commissioner Joan Robinson McMillen said the county formerly had a third party conduct its billing for communications but the county will now be doing it in house and said move would save the county approximately $12,000.
• approve the following Liquid Fuel allocations: New Washington Borough $3,300, Cooper Township $5,757, Huston Township $4,498; Lawrence Township $10,000; Morris Township $4,810; Penn Township $10,000 and $4917; Sandy Township $12,164; Goshen Township $3,750 and $3,200; and Greenwood Township $10,000.
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