Up Date: The Senate voted for final passage for the NDAA conference report (H.R. 1540). The vote was overwhelming: 86-to-13. It now goes to President Obama for his signature.
President Obama has not yet signed the NDAA. It is not to late to tell him to veto this bill which will have a devastating effect on civil liberties and give unprecedented powers to the military and the Executive Branch. Send Obama a strong message sign the petition and send a letter:
This House passed the revised National Defense Authorization Act 283 – 136 with 93 Democrats and 43 Republicans voting against the bill. The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill later today. It inevitably pass with an overwhelming majority and be sent to President Obama to sign. Since the White has stated that they are satisfied with the minor changes, Obama will sign the bill which, as Human Rights Watch said in a press release, “a historic tragedy for rights:
(Washington, DC, December 14, 2011) – US President Barack Obama’s apparent decision to not veto a defense spending bill that codifies indefinite detention without trial into US law and expands the military’s role in holding terrorism suspects does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the US and abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. The Obama administration had threatened to veto the bill, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), over detainee provisions, but on December 14, 2011, it issued a statement indicating the president would likely sign the legislation.
“By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”
The far-reaching detainee provisions would codify indefinite detention without trial into US law for the first time since the McCarthy era when Congress in 1950 overrode the veto of then-President Harry Truman and passed the Internal Security Act. The bill would also bar the transfer of detainees currently held at Guantanamo into the US for any reason, including for trial. In addition, it would extend restrictions, imposed last year, on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to home or third countries – even those cleared for release by the administration.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon wrote in his article this morning that there are “several persistent myths that circulating about this bill and President Obama’s position on it that need to be clarified once and for all:
First, while the powers this bill enshrines are indeed radical and dangerous, most of them already exist. That’s because first the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have aggressively argued that the original 2001 AUMF already empowers them to imprison people without charges, use force against even U.S. citizens without due process (Anwar Awlaki), and target not only members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (as the law states) but also anyone who “substantially supports” those groups and/or “associated forces” (whatever those terms mean). [..]
With a couple of exceptions, this bill just “clarifies” – and codifies – the powers President Obama has already claimed, seized and exercised. [..]
This is the reason why civil libertarians have been so harshly critical of this President. It’s the reason civil liberties groups have been saying things like this even when saying them was so unpopular: it’s because Obama has, for three years now, been defending and entrenching exactly the detention powers this law vests, but doing it through radical legal theories, warped interprations (sic) of the 2001 AUMF, continuities with the Bush/Cheney template, and devotion to Endless War and the civil liberties assults (sic) it entails.
Second, as I documented at length last week, Obama’s veto threat was never about substantive objections to the detention powers vested by this bill; put another way, he was never objecting to the bill on civil liberties grounds. Obama, as I documented last week and again below, is not an opponent of indefinite detention; he’s a vigorous proponent of it, as evidenced by his contiuous (sic), multi-faceted embrace of that policy.
Obama’s objections to this bill had nothing to do with civil liberties, due process or the Constitution. It had everything to do with Executive power. The White House’s complaint was that Congress had no business tying the hands of the President when deciding who should go into military detention, who should be denied a trial, which agencies should interrogate suspects (the FBI or the CIA). Such decisions, insisted the White House (pdf), are for the President, not Congress, to make. In other words, his veto threat was not grounded in the premise that indefinite military detention is wrong; it was grounded in the premise that it should be the President who decides who goes into military detention and why, not Congress.
Third, the most persistent and propagandistic set of myths about President Obama on detention issues is that he tried to end indefinite detention by closing Guantanamo, but was blocked by Congress from doing so. It is true that Congress blocked the closing of Guantanamo, and again in this bill, Congress is imposing virtually insurmountable restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of that camp, including for detainees who have long ago been cleared for release (restrictions that Obama is now going to sign into law). But – and this is not a hard point to understand – while Obama intended to close Guantanamo, he always planned – long before Congress acted – to preserve Guantanamo’s core injustice: indefinite detention.
I need to say that again: long before, and fully independent of, anything Congress did, President Obama made clear that he was going to preserve the indefinite detention system at Guantanamo even once he closed the camp. That’s what makes the apologias over Obama and GITMO so misleading: the controversy over Guantanamo was not that about its locale – that it was based in the Carribean (sic) Ocean – so that simply closing it and then re-locating it to a different venue would address the problem. The controversy over Guantanamo was that it was a prison camp where people were put in cages indefinitely, for decades or life, without being charged with any crime. And that policy is one that President Obama whole-heartedly embraced from the start.
All the evidence is that debunks the myth that Obama is concerned about the Constitution are there in Glen’s article.
Ironically today 220 years ago in 1791, Virginia became the last state to ratify the Bill of Rights. If the Senate passes this horrendous assault on our civil liberties, most of that historic document will be undermined. I don’t believe this that is what our Founding Fathers intended.