Indefinite Detention without Trial Open ThreadPosted: December 31, 2011 | |
Today President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which, among other things, gives the President the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. It also enshrines in law the ability of the government to use the military against American citizens.
At the same time, Obama issued a signing statement in which he says he will not use on the indefinite detention authority. As we know from three years experience, the President is a liar. Furthermore, the power will be passed on to future Presidents, and they may be less hesitant to use it. Here is the text of the signing statement (PDF), via the Washington Post. Some exerpts:
The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Our success against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people, and our accomplishments have respected the values that make our country an example for the world….
Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541
This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.
In other words, Obama already had the power to detain American citizens, but because he is a great and magnanimous leader he will not act on the power, so we shouldn’t worry our pretty heads about it. Habeas Corpus is available only if granted by our benign and glorious leader.
Here’s the statement released by the ACLU on the President’s decision to sign the bill into law.
President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.
“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”
“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court,” said Romero. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today.
There’s more at the link.
World War III Alert
Another dangerous portion of this new law imposes sanctions on Iran’s central bank. From the National Journal article cited above:
The bill also sets in motion strong sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, in an attempt to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program, by impeding Iran’s ability to process payments for the roughly $90 billion in oil and gas it sells each year. The measures, which would penalize any foreign financial institution that does business with the central bank, sparked threats by Iranian officials to cut off access to the Strait of Hormuz, which could block transportation of most oil exports from the Persian Gulf.
The administration retains a national security waiver for the sanctions – and one to waive the petroleum sanctions if it determines there isn’t enough global supply to offset the lost Iranian oil – but has said it opposes being held to a timeline that could fragment to the international coalition working to isolate Iran or potentially spike oil prices.
Please discuss the NDAA, the signing statement, or any other topics that are on your mind.