President Barack Obama has signed a controversial defence bill that basically allows the indefinite detention of terror suspects. The U.S. president said he had 'serious reservations' on some provisions regarding the treatment of detainees. But as Marina Portnaya reports, during his time in office, Obama's shown he's not always good to his word.
Obama signs NDAA defense bill despite 'reservations'
HONOLULU (AP) -- President Barack Obama signed a wide-ranging defense bill into law Saturday despite having "serious reservations" about provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.
The bill also applies penalties against Iran's central bank in an effort to hamper Tehran's ability to fund its nuclear enrichment program. The Obama administration is looking to soften the impact of those penalties because of concerns that they could lead to a spike in global oil prices or cause economic hardship on U.S. allies that import petroleum from Iran.
In a statement accompanying his signature, the president chastised some lawmakers for what he contended was their attempts to use the bill to restrict the ability of counterterrorism officials to protect the country.
Administration officials said Obama was only signing the measure because Congress made minimally acceptable changes that no longer challenged the president's terrorism-fighting ability.
"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," Obama said in the signing statement.
Signing statements allow presidents to raise constitutional objections to circumvent Congress' intent. During his campaign for the White House, Obama criticized President George W. Bush's use of signing statements and promised to make his application of the tool more transparent.
Obama's signature caps months of wrangling over how to handle captured terrorist suspects without violating Americans' constitutional rights. The White House initially threatened to veto the legislation but dropped the warning after Congress made last-minute changes.
Among the changes the administration secured was striking a provision that would have eliminated executive branch authority to use civilian courts for trying terrorism cases against foreign nationals.
The new law now requires military custody for any suspect who is a member of al-Qaida or "associated forces" and involved in planning or attempting to carry out an attack on the United States or its coalition partners. The president or a designated subordinate may waive the military custody requirement by certifying to Congress that such a move is in the interest of national security.
The administration also pushed Congress to change a provision that would have denied U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism the right to trial and could have subjected them to indefinite detention. Lawmakers eventually dropped the military custody requirement for U.S. citizens or lawful U.S. residents.
"My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens," Obama said in the signing statement. "Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation."
Despite the changes, officials cited serious concerns that the law will complicate and could harm the investigation of terrorism cases.
For example, FBI Director Robert Mueller has said the measure would inhibit his bureau's ability to persuade suspected terrorists to cooperate immediately and provide critical intelligence. He told Congress it wasn't clear how agents should operate if they arrest someone covered by the military custody requirement but the nearest military facility is hundreds of miles away.
Other officials have said agents and prosecutors should not have to spend their time worrying about citizenship status and whether get a waiver while trying to thwart a terror attack.
The administration also raised concerns about an amendment in the bill that goes after foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank, barring them from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States. It would apply to foreign central banks only for transactions that involve the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products.
Officials worry that the penalties could lead to higher oil prices, damaging the U.S. economic recovery and hurting allies in Europe and Asia that purchase petroleum from Iran.
The penalties do not go into effect for six months. The president can waive them for national security reasons or if the country with jurisdiction over the foreign financial institution has significantly reduced its purchases of Iran oil.
The State Department has said the U.S. was looking at how to put them in place in a way that maximized the pressure on Iran, but meant minimal disruption to the U.S. and its allies.
This week, Iran warned that it may disrupt traffic in the Strait of Hormuz - a vital Persian Gulf waterway. But on Saturday, Tehran seemed to back off that threat when a commander of its Revolutionary Guard said such discussion is a thing of the past and "belongs to five years ago."
Iran also said Saturday that it had proposed a new round of talks on its nuclear program with the U.S. and other world powers. The invitation would come after the U.N. has imposed four rounds of sanctions. Separately, the U.S. and the European Union have imposed their own tough economic and financial penalties.
The $662 billion bill authorizes money for military personnel, weapons systems, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and national security programs in the Energy Department for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The measure also freezes some $700 million in assistance until Pakistan comes up with a strategy to deal with improvised explosive devices.
Obama signed the bill in Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family.
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Congress, Obama Codify Indefinite Detention
by Sheldon Richman, December 27, 2011
In yet another reversal of his professed commitment to the rule of law, President Obama says he will sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which formalizes his authority to imprison terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge or trial.
Where is the “progressive” outrage?
George W. Bush and Obama both claimed that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) empowered them to have the military hold people merely suspected of association with al-Qaeda or related organizations without charge for the duration of the “war on terror.” It didn’t matter if the suspect was a foreigner, a U.S. citizen, or a legal resident. It also didn’t matter if the alleged offense was committed inside or outside the United States. The battlefield encompassed the whole world.
In interpreting the AUMF this way, both administrations went well beyond its language. On its face, the AUMF only authorizes “the President … to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
Clearly the power is restricted to people involved in 9/11 and those who protected them. Yet under novel theories of the executive branch’s constitutional authority, this was turned into a virtual blank check.
The AUMF also makes no reference to indefinite detention or to turning citizens and legal residents over to the military, rather than civilian law enforcement, when they are merely suspected of being involved in a vague class of activities such as “supporting” “associated forces” in the commission of belligerent acts.
Regardless of the absence of the relevant language, both the Bush and Obama administrations claimed these broad powers that make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights’ Fifth Amendment in particular.
Now these powers have been formally set down on paper. Ironically, the Obama administration hinted at a veto of the bill because it introduced restrictions on its authority. Carrying on the Bush philosophy that under the Constitution the executive branch has virtually unlimited power, Obama objected to any congressional intrusion into its prerogatives, even if only to codify authority already claimed and exercised.
For example, one section requires the executive branch to turn over to the military a person suspected of terrorism. Note that this would even include individuals resisting the American occupation of Afghanistan or the bombing in Sudan or Somalia. It could also include someone who innocently gave money to a charity not knowing it had some connection to an “associated” organization. But the Obama administration did not like being required to do this. Rather, it prefers to have it as an option. In the end, the administration was granted the power to use civilian courts, but only after filing a waiver with Congress.
The section goes on to say that included within the military’s authority is “detention under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities.” This section, however, exempts Americans citizens captured inside the country.
The next section does apply to American citizens and other legal residents. Although it explicitly says the administration is not required to turn them over to the military, itmay do so if it wishes. Obama successfully opposed a blanket prohibition in this section against the military detention of American citizens.
As one of its defenders, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said of the provision: “The statement of authority to detain does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.” This shouldn’t be surprising: Obama already claims the authority to kill Americans without due process.
Obama’s intention to sign the NDAA tells us exactly where he stands on the Bill of Rights. As Human Rights Watch put it: “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”
The late Chalmers Johnson , the scholar who did so much to chronicle America’s world domination, liked to say that you either abolish the empire or live under it. Is there any doubt he was right?
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog Free Association at www.sheldonrichman.com. Send him email.
Congress is Signing Its Own Arrest Warrants in the NDAA Citizen Arrest Bill..
From Naomi Wolf Published: December 12th, 2011
By | AP – Thu, Dec 1, 2011
Top national security lawyers in the Obama administration say U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida.
The lawyers were asked at a national security conference Thursday about the CIA killing of Anwar al-Alwaki, a U.S. citizen and leading al-Qaida figure. He died in a Sept. 30 U.S. drone strike in the mountains of Yemen.
The government lawyers — CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson — did not directly address the al-Alwaki case. But they said U.S. citizens don't have immunity when they're at war with the United States.
Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, are equipped to make decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.
Section 1031 would strip Americans of all constitutional rights if they are declared 'terrorists'
Stand up for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the American People! IMPEACH every single Senator who voted FOR the McCain/Levin "U.S. is a Battlefield" bill that gives the military the right to go to the houses of U.S. Citizens and take them without charges or rights to a lawyer or trial for the rest of their lives! The Senators COMMITTED TREASON Directly Against the United States Citizens!
The Constitution cannot continue to be violated by these oathbreakers who swore to uphold it. Every Senator who voted yes should be tried for treason.
Here is a list of 61 anti-American terrorists that should be detained indefinitely.
Ayotte (R-NH) Barrasso (R-WY) Blunt (R-MO) Boozman (R-AR) Brown (R-MA) Burr (R-NC) Casey (D-PA) Chambliss (R-GA) Coats (R-IN) Coburn (R-OK) Cochran (R-MS) Collins (R-ME) Conrad (D-ND) Corker (R-TN) Cornyn (R-TX) Crapo (R-ID) DeMint (R-SC) Enzi (R-WY) Graham (R-SC) Grassley (R-IA) Hagan (D-NC) Hatch (R-UT) Heller (R-NV) Hoeven (R-ND) Hutchison (R-TX) Inhofe (R-OK) Inouye (D-HI) Isakson (R-GA) Johanns (R-NE) Johnson (R-WI) Kohl (D-WI) Kyl (R-AZ) Landrieu (D-LA) Lee (R-UT) Levin (D-MI) Lieberman (ID-CT) Lugar (R-IN) Manchin (D-WV) McCain (R-AZ) McCaskill (D-MO) McConnell (R-KY) Menendez (D-NJ) Moran (R-KS) Nelson (D-NE) Portman (R-OH) Pryor (D-AR) Reed (D-RI) Risch (R-ID) Roberts (R-KS) Rubio (R-FL) Sessions (R-AL) Shaheen (D-NH) Shelby (R-AL) Snowe (R-ME) Stabenow (D-MI) Thune (R-SD) Toomey (R-PA) Vitter (R-LA) Whitehouse (D-RI) Wicker (R-MS)
Petition to IMPEACH ALL Senators who Voted for "U.S. is a Battlefield"