Indefinite Detention without Trial Open Thread

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.

37 Comments on “Indefinite Detention without Trial Open Thread”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Glenn Greenwald summarizes Obama’s “National Security” “achievements.”

    The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

    He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

    Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed “a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes.

    • northwestrain says:

      Oh yes — sing it out — 0bama is certainly the ONE.

      Only a wolf in sheep’s skin could pull off this sort of evil.

    • dakinikat says:

      This is really appalling.

    • Woman Voter says:

      The saddest part is our press is not covering NDAA and is acting as his campaign press office. 😥

    • peggysue22 says:

      And this from a much heralded ‘Constitutional’ scholar. Guess we forgot to ask ‘which’ Constitution. This is one of those rare moments when I find myself agreeing with Ron Paul–it was a dangerous precedent when GW set this thing into motion and Obama has deliberately made it all the worse. Yet he couches his comments, trying as always to deflect accountability.

      Greenwald has been cutting Obama a new one for quite some time. I thought targeting an American citizen for assassination [Anwar Al-awlaki], regardless of how bad or dangerous, was highly disturbing. Where is that power derived? It’s one thing for someone to be killed in battle; it’s quite another to be killed as the result of a kill order.

      That’s the problem with all these so-called security measures–the creep is ever on-going. More fear, more security, until the unthinkable act becomes standard procedure.

      We’ll ultimately pay as a country for this overreach. And this continuous drumbeat for war is absolutely crazed. Irresponsible, power-hungry politicians are more a threat to Americans than Iran is.

      Dark days!

  2. northwestrain says:

    Not very long ago I spent many evenings with a friend who was in her 90s. Both she and her husband managed to escape from Germany before WWII. But not before she witnessed the rise of Hitler and the reign of Nazis and the brown shirts. Hitler had absolute power — and he used it badly.

    Listening to her eyewitness stories of that time — she said it was obvious at the time that Hitler was evil and that he brought out the very worst in people. Hitler also used religion and the mythology of religion as a why to control people — not that he himself was a religious man.

    0bowma isn’t the ONE — he is an aloof narcissist.

    Emptywheel also has blogged about the indefinite detention — as well as the Drones.

    If 9/11 hadn’t happened — then bushie/cheny/rove would have made it happen (perhaps they did — there is still the case of the militarized Anthrax.) 9/11 can now be used as an excuse for the Police States of the USA. Security Theatre — to make the sheep behave. The 1% need a submissive unquestioning population.

    Thankfully there are informed blogger who are willing to explain just why indefinite detention is one more stop on the road to Fascism.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It must be very difficult for your friend to see this happening in the U.S.

      • northwestrain says:

        She didn’t trust Bush — she died before 0bama was crowned. But she predicted that it would get much much worse. In fact she sort of predicted that the Dems would elect someone who would follow in bush’s foot steps.

      • That is really something NWrain, that she saw what was coming…

      • northwestrain says:

        Yes she saw — because she saw what happened to Germany. She was amazed at all the retired Americans who could see what was happening. She gave me an education — not found in history books.

    • Pilgrim says:

      It is dangerous to say anything regarding Hitler, but…

      He did win a democratic election in 1933 with 90 per cent of the vote.

      Voter enthusiasm can be whipped up.

      • northwestrain says:

        My friend’s stories were about Hitler’s followers — Hitler was able to tap into the evil that lurks in some humans.

        She said she and her husband watched to brownshirts pull out the books on the book shelves. They were whipped up into a frenzy.

        Bush was able to unleash evil — that’s what my friend saw in bush — someone who could unleash the evil — or give permission to release whatever moral controls that advanced cultures impose on the masses.

        My friend was a professor at one of the Ivy League colleges and she retired in the early 70s. Her husband was Jewish.

        We don’t have to use Hitler — there are other examples — like the Rev. Jim Jones — the mass suicides and murder by his followers. He was a dogmatic cult leader.

    • peggysue22 says:

      I just finished reading the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen, which is about the early days of Hitler’s takeover, as witnessed by our Ambassador to Germany [Dodd] and his family. It’s a fascinating study in how first impressions [positive] slowly turn to horror as the behavior of the German government turned ever more erratic and violent. Also, the resistance and failure of many– Germans, Americans, other Europeans–to recognize and accept what was truly happening while there was still time to prevent the ultimate slaughter.


  3. ralphb says:

    Glenzilla is right. Unfortunately there is no one in power, or close to it, who will say NO!

    Apparently no one, and I mean no one, in our government has the moral fortitude of Tony Blair’s Foreign Secretary who resigned in protest over the Iraq War. It makes little sense to blame one person for it all when our entire government is corrupt. Though the person at the top does deserve the biggest share of it.

    • dakinikat says:

      Glennzilla and Brad Delong are in a Tweet war ..

      ggreenwald Glenn Greenwald
      @@delong Someone should teach you what a question mark means – as well as the tactic of applying your own reasoning to you

      Delong just deleted a doozy that I wish i had copied …

  4. Pilgrim says:

    “As we know from three years experience, the President is a liar.”

    Ya got that right, sad to say.

  5. HT says:

    Truly, truly appalling to watch while this happens, expecially as I had relatives die in WW11 to stop this and prevent it from ever happening again. Perhaps 2012 will bring better news, but I doubt it. It’s entrenched now, and saddest of all, it took a so-called liberal to entrench it. Wall Street and the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about oh those so many years ago made it happen and the government did nothing but abet those interests.

    On a different note, I don’t often delurk, but Happy New Year to all the Skydancers.
    May the road rise up to meet you,
    May the wind be ever at your back
    May the sun shine warm upon your face
    And the rain fall softly on your fields.

    • Pilgrim says:

      God, what a lovely experience to see that. Thank you very much, HT.

      • HT says:

        You’re welcome. So few people hear the voices of other countries, and this lady is magnificent. I’m so happy you liked it. Happy New Year.

        • dakinikat says:

          Happy NY to you too!

          Just found out we’re way TOO early with all this:

          neiltyson Neil deGrasse Tyson
          FYI:NewYear celebrations begin 6hr too early per yr, relative to Earth’s orbital return spot. The 4yr leapday corrects for it

    • bostonboomer says:

      If he’s doomed, who would be least horrible–Ron Paul or Romney?

      • dakinikat says:

        Well, I’m still holding out for the scenario that the Republicans can’t find a candidate and have to do so on the floor of the convention since they dumped the winner take all events. Sure looks like things will get split 3 – 4 ways.

      • northwestrain says:

        That is the question. I do not like the Paulbots.

        Romney doesn’t seem to have bot followers.

        Third party?

      • peggysue22 says:

        My initial response would be Romney. But in all honesty, Romney would most likely be a continuation of many things Obama. Ron Paul has some good points–less foreign involvement, for instance–but his hardline libertarian bent [in all things but my womb and the lives of gays] is totally unacceptable. I don’t want the clock turned back to 1900, thank you very much.

        Bottom line? Without an outside challenger who could actually win, we’re screwed royally. Then, of course, the question would be: who is the outside challenger? Would he/she be better or worse than all of them [hard to imagine but always possible].

        We’re screwed! Only recourse is to concentrate on finding decent people for the House and Senate to replace the sellouts we have presently.

        Happy New Year :0).

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Holy Hannah! The Des Moines Register poll is out and Santorum is in second place!

    Romney, 24%

    Santorum 21%

    Paul 18%

    Gingrich 12%

    Perry 11%

    Bachmann 7%

    That’s according to a “breaking news” e-mail from Politico.

    • dakinikat says:

      The religious crackpots must be coalescing. I have a feeling he’s VEEP material, unfortunately.

    • dakinikat says:

      Dissenting Justice
      Greenwald has extensive praise of Ron Paul. But if we can criticize Obama, we must also criticize Ron Paul. He is problematic as well. All politicians are. That’s why people were so upset with Obama in the first place. They treated him a Deity. I see the same attention being directed towards Paul. He’s a cult of personality, whose passionate fans are very angered by any criticism of him. This was the exact same behavioral response from Obama’s supporters during the 2008 primaries and presidential campaign and for the first 3 years of his presidency.


      • bostonboomer says:

        Greenwald has a point, but in the end Ron Paul would be just as bad as Obama. He’d destroy us domestically, and the CIA and Congress wouldn’t permit him to change our foreign policy. It’s not like this is a democracy or anything.

    • peggysue22 says:

      OMG! The world has definitely gone bonkers. Rick Santorum??? The very thought of Santorum being anywhere near the WH [veep, cabinet, etc.] makes my skin crawl.

      • Ya took the words out of my mouth Peggy…geez dak, I’m depressed enough as it is…the thought of Mr. Buttjuice as VP (And the clown who would put him there.) just makes things even more disturbing.

  7. Sophie says:

    Happy New Year’s, Sky Dancers!