April 10, 2012 - 10:46 am

BY WESLEY P. HESTER

Gov. Bob McDonnell has offered amendments to a bill from Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, that would prevent state agencies and employees from participating in the military detention of U.S. citizens without trial.

If the amendments are agreed to, House Bill 1160 would prohibit members of the Virginia National Guard and state police from aiding in such detentions as currently allowed under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.

The loophole in the law raised eyebrows and even elicited a vow from President Barack Obama upon signing it never to use the provision to hold citizens. But Marshall and many others are alarmed that it’s on the books at all.  

Marshall said that McDonnell has proposed altering the language of the bill to say that no state employee can “knowingly” participate in the indefinite detention of a citizen.

A paragraph has also been added to clarify that Virginia agencies will not participate in a joint task force set up for the purpose of detention and will drop out of a task force that decides to detain people during an operation.  

McDonnell had in recent weeks expressed support for the concept of the legislation, but concerns over any unintended consequences it could have.

"The governor believes we must encourage and promote these collaborative efforts while ensuring that core constitutional principles enjoyed by all U.S. citizens are respected," said McDonnell spokeswoman Taylor Thornley. "He believes these standards are expected by all Virginians and want to take appropriate steps to reaffirm that position. In the governor’s view, this legislation now accomplishes that goal." 

“I am very pleased,” Marshall said. “This is a definitive statement by the governor and legislature of Virginia that we’re not going to participate in activities that led to the illegal, unjustified and unconstitutional detentions of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.”

He added: “I hope the folks in Washington understand that they’ve crossed the line.”