Commissioners vote 2-1 to oppose National Defense Act
In a 2-1 vote, Carbon County officials have approved a resolution opposing two sections of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
During the county commissioners meeting on Thursday, Commissioners Wayne Nothstein, chairman; and Thomas J. Gerhard, voted in favor of the resolution that opposes sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA act, which allows the military to detain a suspected terrorist that supports al Qaeda or the Taliban on American soil. Commissioner William O'Gurek, who has continually stated that he opposes the resolution because he agrees with the act, cast the sole "no" vote.
Prior to the vote, O'Gurek urged his fellow commissioners to take a good look at the resolution because he said there were "subjective statements or opinions" in the resolution that "may or may not be true."
"I just want to caution you to be voting in favor of making statements in the resolution that are arbitrary and subjective," he said.
O'Gurek also asked if the resolution would be the position of the board as a whole or of each of the members individually.
Nothstein at first said he thought it would be each member's position, but after Daniel Miscavige, county solicitor, pointed out that the resolution said "the board of county commissioners," Nothstein changed his answer to the board as a whole.
O'Gurek then said that he feels the two sections that are the most controversial have been "explicitly clear with the definition of a covered person and pointed out that Henry Desrosiers, director of the Carbon County Veterans Affairs office, is opposed to the resolution because he has concerns with regards to the veterans this county serves. Desrosiers was unable to attend Thursday's meeting due to prior commitments.
Nothstein said he had not spoken with Derosiers about the matter, but feels that there are numerous articles of the constitution that are violated by sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA act.
O'Gurek rebutted, saying that "The act doesn't say a Pennsylvania citizen may be detained. It says it pertains to a person who was a part of or substantially supported al Qaeda or Taliban or anyone that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or coalition.
"I think it's (the resolution opposing the two sections) sending the wrong message of how this county should be supporting our U.S. military," he said.
Nothstein said that he feels there are violations to a person's rights, such as to a speedy trial.
O'Gurek again rebutted, saying that according to the interpretation he has, he feels that the "NDAA does not change the fundamental constitutional right of habeas corpus, (which gives right to challenge a detention in law.) Nothing in NDAA undermines that right to review."
Nothstein said that was O'Gurek's opinion, but it differs from his own. He then asked for a role call vote.
Before casting his vote, O'Gurek summed up his feelings on the issue at hand, saying that he believes "the statements that refer to military detainment do not apply to any American citizen or even legal aliens as far as it is permitted within the constitution. ... The bill acknowledges the rights of U.S. citizens and lawful resident aliens. It does not create any new or unprecedented presidential power, nor does it create any permanent detention power.
O'Gurek continued, saying that he feels the NDAA does not undermine any rights Americans have, and does not violate constitutional rights.
He then said his "no" vote is consistent with U.S. Sens. Robert Casey (D-PA), and Patrick Toomey (R-PA); and Congressmen Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Tim Holden (D-PA).
Following the vote, Nothstein and Gerhard also weighed in O'Gurek's statements regarding the resolution affecting veterans; as well as why they decided to vote in favor of the resolution.
Nothstein said he feels that there is too much overregulation of the government and because of the information he received about the act, has concerns with it.
He then indirectly asked O'Gurek, "This has been an ongoing issue for how many months now. People have been coming to this meeting (in support of nullifying the resolution), and if it affected veterans affairs or veterans in this country, and I am a veteran and member of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania veterans task force, then why has no one from our veterans come to me and spoke against this and how it affects them?"
Gerhard echoed Nothstein's thoughts regarding not hearing any opposition from outside parties.