Three members of the Laurens County Council have put the county on record as opposing a United States law.
Council Chairman Joe Wood, and members Stewart Jones and Ted Nash, voted “yes” Tuesday on a resolution opposing portions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
The controversial provisions allow the U.S. military to take into custody any United States citizen living overseas and suspected of being a terrorist, without the normal due process of law provisions. These citizens can be held in military prisons. The law does not apply to U.S. citizens living in this country.
Jones said the fact that the council did not take a vote on this resolution five years ago when he brought it up for action (as a private citizen) motivated him to run for, and win, a council seat.
Jones said the provisions violate the U.S. Constitution, and the spirit of the Declaration of Independence signed 242 years ago, July 4, and the Magna Carta, signed 803 years ago (British law of due process).
Council member Dianne Anderson said the council passing a resolution would have no effect on the U.S. Congress possibly repealing the provisions.
Council member Garrett McDaniel said there are protections for U.S. citizens against due process violations as they live in the United States.
“But this is being used overseas to put United States citizens in jail, without due process,” Jones said.
Anderson said, if that is the case, citizens should take their concerns to Congress, not to the Laurens County Council. Jones originally proposed a resolution declaring these provisions “unconstitutional.” County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks said the council could not adopt a resolution making that statement, since the council is not a court.
McDaniel voted “no” on the resolution. Anderson abstained from voting. Council Vice-chairman Keith Tollison and member Dr. David Pitts were absent.
Cruickshanks said the S.C. Association of Counties has no problem with councils adopting the resolution. A similar measure has been introduced in the S.C. General Assembly.
“This has been passed around to a number of counties,” Cruickshanks said. “It’s a piece of paper that says we don’t like what (Congress is) doing.”
The provisions in question were passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Obama in 2012. They are designed to assist the U.S. military as it continues “policing” actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The NDAA, as a whole, provides the money necessary for the United States to have a military force. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., recently penned an op-ed piece extolling the virtues of the NDAA, which grants a pay increase to military men and women, among other provisions.
Jones said the NDAA provisions in question “overstep” the limits of what Congress can do, in that they suspend due process for U.S. citizens, not in this country, but abroad. “As a whole, NDAA is legitimate, but in these functions (suspending due process), the language is vague and broad.”
McDaniel said, “There are provisions in here that do not strip citizens of their rights, 1022B says it does not extend to citizens in the United States.”
“Everything I’ve read says it’s unconstitutional,” Wood said. “Mr. Jones feels strongly about this, and who am I to judge what Mr. Jones feels strongly about.”
The resolution -- 2018-31 -- requires just one reading of the Laurens County Council to go into effect.