As of Tuesday, the federal government wasn’t quite ready to render a verdict on the compromise reached by members of Congress on a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act which guides terrorist suspects into the military justice system. But FBI Director Robert Mueller indicated Wednesday that the administration still has concerns, though it’s still unclear if the White House will make good on a previous veto threat.
The language change essentially said that the FBI still had the same authority to investigate terrorism cases, but civil liberties advocates found the language hollow because it would still give the military custody of terror suspects unless the president signed off on a waiver for every individual suspect. The White House had threatened to veto the legislation before the conference changes were made, but they’ve been silent on the issue ever since.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Mueller indicated the administration still has worries about the language of the compromise. Mueller said the revised language would still create “uncertainty” and worried that military officials and federal law enforcement agents could clash in the event of a terror incident.
“The drafters of the statute went some distance to resolving the issue related to our authority but the language, but did not really fully address my concerns….” Mueller said, as quoted by Politico’s Josh Gerstein. “My concern is that …you don’t want to have FBI and military showing up at the scene at the same time on a covered person… with some uncertainty as to who has the role and who’s going to do what.”
One national security expert had argued that the language in the National Defense Authorization Act is intended to “raise the political cost of using the civilian judiciary system.”