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Carbon Commissioner defends his position on National Defense Authorization Act

Published May 05. 2012 09:01AM

A Carbon County commissioner recently defended his position on the National Defense Authorization Act.

During the guest portion of the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Valerie Norato of Penn Forest Township asked the board if they have considered her request to sign a resolution nullifying the National Defense Authorization Act because, she said, it gives power for the military to detain American citizens without charge or right to counsel and feels it is unconstitutional.

Commissioners Wayne Nothstein and Thomas J. Gerhard said they discussed the matter and are considering signing the resolution; while Commissioner William O'Gurek said that he believes, from the interpretation of the act he received from the United States Senate, the act does exactly what it should, defend Americans from terrorists.

"I can tell you that I inquired about the intent of the act and the custody and detention provisions of the NDAA are really covered by the definition of a covered person," O'Gurek said. "This allows the United States to effectively deal with the threat posed by al Qaeda."

He noted that the definition of a "covered person" used in the act is, "a person who was a part of, or substantially supports al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces that are engaged in a hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."

"Given that I'm not in favor of the resolution, I don't think there is anything in the NDAA that violates the law," O'Gurek continued. "I think it's intent is to deal with the threat posed to Americans. We're fighting wars in this world over that and I stand behind the men and women of the United States who are fighting those wars to deal with al Qaeda. I think this act is a good act that allows the United States to deal with people who are involved in activities with al Qaeda.

"The provision applies to only non-U.S. citizens and non lawful resident aliens who are al Qaeda operatives. So the intent of that act and the covered person definition in that act, in my opinion, is strictly in line with what we as Americans are trying to do. NDAA is clear that the writ of habeas corpus, which is the legal doctrine that allows individuals to challenge their detention in court of law is upheld by this act. This act does not violate the right to challenge you being held. There is nothing in NDAA that undermines the critical rights Americans enjoy; however it does deal with people who are associated with al Qaeda and Taliban activities," he concluded.

Norato asked then if he sees no harm with the act then why won't he sign the resolution?

O'Gurek again stressed that he feels the act is constitutional and the resolution would go against what he believes.

"I don't think the sections are unconstitutional as you say they are," he said. "I think the act provides provisions for a covered person who is involved in Taliban activities and that's what we're fighting for. We have people who are injured, who are killed, who have families who will never be the same and who are fighting for those rights and I think this act is consistent with that effort. That's why I'm not in favor of the resolution. I think as Americans we want a safe world and a safe country and I think this is consistent with detaining people involved in those terroristic activities and I don't know how you can find fault in that."

Nothstein then ended the debate due to time and not following the meeting's agenda.

The discussion about the National Defense Authorization Act began on May 15, when Norato approached the board and asked them to sign the resolution that nullifies the act in Carbon County.

At that time, she said the act states that military can detain American citizens without charge, without right to legal counsel and without right to a trial.

The act (Senate Bill 1867) was signed into law for this fiscal year, and has come under much scrutiny since being announced last year. The act provides approval for military to arrest and hold indefinitely suspected terrorists on American soil.

In other matters, former seasonal park maintenance worker Daniel W. Laughlin of Lehighton, approached the board about reasons he decided to resign his post at Mauch Chunk Lake Park.

He said that decisions that were being made at the park, including wasting county money by throwing out usable cinders, were the reasons for him retiring.

He noted that there were conflicts at the park because of lack of flexibility from some employees.

Gerhard said that he felt Laughlin could have spoken with the commissioners in private about this matter and a solution could have been reached earlier.

Laughlin responded that he'd rather express himself during a public meeting because he had major concerns.

Nothstein said that if no one came forward, the commissioners couldn't address the problems.

Laughlin responded that he just came forward with the issues.

Laughlin retired from his post, effective April 27. His retirement was approved by the board yesterday.

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