Today I have signed into law H.R. 1540, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.” I have signed the Act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families, and vital national security programs that must be renewed. In hundreds of separate sections totaling over 500 pages, the Act also contains critical Administration initiatives to control the spiraling health care costs of the Department of Defense (DoD), to develop counterterrorism initiatives abroad, to build the security capacity of key partners, to modernize the force, and to boost the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations worldwide.
Opens with “support our troops” justifications for bloated defense spending and continued militarism. Untouchable in the main.
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.
Meaning - the sections in the original bill which required military detention of terrorism suspects would have interfered with the now-vested (under the AUMF) Executive branch powers and may have led to sticky international law questions. Couldn’t have that.
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,
without accountability. This is something the original NDAA may have threatened.
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.
Not so sure about that.
Against that record of success, some in Congress continue to insist upon restricting the options available to our counterterrorism professionals and interfering with the very operations that have kept us safe.
By “restricting”, he means that mandatory military detention places this in the realm of “war prisoner”, putting an international spotlight on our treatment of “combatants” and possibly requiring adherence to the Geneva conventions.
My Administration has consistently opposed such measures.
True dat. As Paul Craig Roberts wrote:
…under AUMF the executive branch has total discretion as to who it detains and how it treats detainees. Moreover, as the executive branch has total discretion, no one can find out what the executive branch is doing, who detainees are, or what is being done to them. [The original draft of the NDAA] brings accountability, and the executive branch does not want accountability.
Back to the signing statement:
Ultimately, I decided to sign this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes,
Support our troops…
but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people. Moving forward, my Administration will interpret and implement the provisions described below in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded.
Again, with no attention paid or adherence to international laws or our own. (The last sentence is pure doublespeak).
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 note). 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.
This is all true. The section was changed to ensure that the current methods deployed in the war on terror aren’t going anywhere and will be subject to just as little oversight. Notice the “captured or arrested in the United States" - not overseas.
Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.
We may assassinate them without trial, but only abroad…
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.
We shall see. The record so far isn’t promising.
Section 1022 seeks to require military custody for a narrow category of non-citizen detainees who are “captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” This section is ill-conceived and will do nothing to improve the security of the United States. The executive branch already has the authority to detain in military custody those members of al-Qa’ida who are captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the AUMF, and as Commander in Chief I have directed the military to do so where appropriate. I reject any approach that would mandate military custody
again, the “prisoner of war” problem…
where law enforcement provides the best method of incapacitating a terrorist threat. While section 1022 is unnecessary and has the potential to create uncertainty, I have signed the bill because I believe that this section can be interpreted and applied in a manner that avoids undue harm to our current operations.
i.e. won’t change the status quo in the war on terror.
The rest is, essentially, a statement of Obama’s objection to limits on executive power and a promise to try to repeal or otherwise block any limits on his current authority under the AUMF.
There isn’t very much concerning the actual sticky civl liberties concerns raised by many across the political spectrum. The problem from the Obama administration’s perspective was with limits on executive power regarding the detention and legal protections afforded to “enemy combatants”.
I will concede, however, that Obama does add an air of "don’t worry, this stuff won’t happen on our soil", but this provides little comfort as the bill is now law, and will be abused by anyone with the desire to do so. Remember how certain we all were that a Democratic president, and especially the anti-Iraq war candidate Barack Obama, would never abuse executive power in the same way as the Bush administration.
As tumblr kohenari noted:
The challenge, obviously, is that subsequent administrations might not interpret the most controversial sections of the NDAA in the way that the Obama administration has decided to interpret it. And, of course, the Obama administration might alter the way they interpret the NDAA to suit a situation that arises. That, at bottom, is the problem with “unnecessary” language that sounds like it opens the door for all sorts of troubling overreach by our government, namely that it might very well be unnecessay (and unused) at one moment and then deemed necessary and put into practice the next. And that, of course, is why human rights organizations and civil libertarians are concerned.
This is as dark a day as the signing of the Patriot Act. The Obama administration and congress just let us know that the “war on terror” and the abuses and atrocities that come along with it (as well the obscene powers given to the executive under the guise of “security”) aren’t going anywhere whether any legitimate threats still exist or not.