Legislation to establish a National Commission on U.S. Counterterrorism Policy to assess U.S. counterterrorism objectives, policies, programs and more is moving forward in Congress. The Commission’s review would include an examination of the impacts of counterterrorism policies on civil rights and civil liberties in the U.S. and internationally recognized human rights and humanitarian principles abroad. The House passed its version of the Commission proposal in the National Defense Authorization Act on July 21 (HR 6395). On July 22 Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced a nearly identical stand-alone bill to create such a Commission (S 4169).

The Commission would be comprised of 14 commissioners with relevant expertise in counterterrorism, diplomacy, law enforcement, Armed Forces, law, public administration, Congress, intelligence, academia, human rights, civil rights, or civil liberties. At least one commissioner shall possess a civil rights or civil liberties background and one shall have a background in international human rights.

Approximately 18 months after forming, the Commission would submit a report to Congress on its findings, input and recommendations received, which would be made public within one week.

Sen. Peter’s bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). It has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where Johnson is the Chair and Peters is the Ranking Member.

The Senate version tracks the House version in most respects. There are two issues in the Study Areas section of the Senate version that may be of concern to nonprofit organizations:

1) Sec. (c)(6) takes out the reference to impacts on civil liberties, and “internationally recognized human rights and humanitarian principles abroad” and instead, in Sec.(c)(3)(D) refers only to civil liberties and internationally recognized human rights abroad.

2) The Study Area section in the House version (on page 2) that included the concept of whether or not US CT frameworks and programs need “updating” was deleted in the Senate version.