Congressman Schiff on Passage of 2023 National Defense Authorization Act
“At a time when the global struggle between democracy and autocracy has reached its highest pitch in a generation, it has never been more important we invest in bolstering our national security, cementing America’s leadership on the global stage, and promoting our commitments to peace and freedom everywhere. This year’s national defense funding legislation puts those ideals front and center, and will ensure we continue to live up to them amid the rising threats to democratic institutions at home and abroad. Still, while there is no cost too great to protect our citizens and national security, the continued trend of increasing defense spending even beyond what’s requested by the commander-in-chief is troubling as it chokes off funding for other areas of critical importance, such as education, affordable housing, and health care, which is why I supported significant but targeted cuts,” said Schiff. “For this specific package, I am thrilled that eight of my amendments to bolster human rights, civil liberties, freedom of the press, government transparency, and military honors for the ‘Lost 74’ of the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans were passed by my House colleagues, and I look forward to fighting for their inclusion in the final bill during conference.”
The amendments authored by Schiff include:
- Protecting Americans’ civil liberties by preventing the U.S. military from being used inappropriately in domestic law enforcement functions. Originally introduced after the previous administration pre-positioned active-duty U.S. military units to respond to national protests against police brutality, this amendment strengthens the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 — which prohibits the Armed Forces from enforcing U.S. laws without authorization — by excluding any information or other evidence unlawfully collected by or with the assistance of the military from being used during legal proceedings. For more information on the bill, which the House passed by voice vote last year, click here.
- Demanding Azerbaijan immediately and unconditionally release Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians. This amendment calls on Azerbaijan to release all Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians currently detained in the aftermath of the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh — also known as Artsakh — and urges the Biden administration to engage with Azerbaijani authorities on all levels to facilitate their release, including through the OSCE Minsk Group process.
- Calling on Iran to immediately end its human rights violations and facilitate the unconditional, immediate release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. This amendment also authorizes the Secretary of State to continue to provide assistance to civil society organizations that support political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
- Establishing measures to protect the human rights of journalists. This amendment expands the scope of required reports related to violations of the human rights of journalists, requires the President to impose certain property- and visa-blocking sanctions on persons responsible for gross violations of the human rights of journalists, and prohibits certain foreign assistance to a governmental entity of a country if an official acting under authority of the entity has committed a gross violation of human rights against a journalist.
- Studying the implementation of Schiff’s Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, a 2010 law to call out governments that seek to silence media opposition. This amendment requires the GAO to conduct a study and issue a report on the implementation of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which Schiff co-authored and was signed into law by President Obama. The legislation requires the State Department to identify countries in which there were violations of press freedom; determine whether the government authorities of those countries participate in, facilitate, or condone the violations; and report the actions such governments have taken to preserve the safety and independence of the media and ensure the prosecution of individuals who attack or murder journalists.
- Honoring the “Lost 74” of the USS Frank E. Evans on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to authorize that the names of the Evans’ 74 crew members, who tragically lost their lives during a training exercise in the South China Sea on June 3, 1969, are included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. This has been a long-standing Schiff priority. A second, related amendment would direct the Secretary of Defense to conduct a feasibility study on adding the names of the “Lost 74”.
- Making all public military commission proceedings available online. This amendment authorizes military judges to make any military commission proceeding that is open to the public in-person also available to the public remotely through the internet, including at Guantanamo Bay.