Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Bill Into Law

President Obama today signed into the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains the controversial and objectionable provisions on indefinite detention and restrictions on transfers of detainees from Guantanamo. He issued a signing statement with it that doesn't ameliorate the damage.

The ACLU says:

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.


“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.”

In addition to allowing indefinite detention without charges or trial,

The bill also contains provisions making it difficult to transfer suspects out of military detention, which prompted FBI Director Robert Mueller to testify that it could jeopardize criminal investigations. It also restricts the transfers of cleared detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries for resettlement or repatriation, making it more difficult to close Guantanamo, as President Obama pledged to do in one of his first acts in office.

More on the bill here:

Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.

Also see Glenn Greenwald on the biggest myths about the bill. And Georgetown Law Prof David Cole in the New York Review of Books.

The world is our battlefield, according to the U.S. Just shameful.

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    A proud moment in a continuing tradition... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 05:20:19 PM EST
    of American Presidential Duplicity.

    And now for another tradition, Angry Black Sycophant's spin on this, Obama's latest treachery.

    Already... (none / 0) (#25)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 09:58:17 AM EST
    norris morris (none / 0) (#26)
    by norris morris on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 05:06:44 PM EST
    This is totally unconstitutional and it opens
    the door for the worst mischief against our democratic principles.  Any future leader can do real damage to our rights for a fair trial and charges.

    Obama has finally put the finishing touch on his terrible lack of leadership and clueless behavior.


    TREACHERY AND COWARDICE (none / 0) (#30)
    by norris morris on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 06:39:12 PM EST
    Obama tried to weasel on this as he's done about most everything else.  NY Review of Books blog has a good take on this shameful destruction of Due Process.

    This law is an unconstitutional outrage (5.00 / 8) (#2)
    by shoephone on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 06:33:35 PM EST
    and Obama's signing of it is utterly rephrensible.

    Exactly the kind of thing I feared and expected after his ridiculous performance art over FISA in summer of 2008.

    Marcy Wheeler discusses the worst part (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by Anne on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 09:36:09 PM EST
    of the signing statement:

    Sections 1023-1025 needlessly interfere with the executive branch's processes for reviewing the status of detainees. Going forward, consistent with congressional intent as detailed in the Conference Report, my Administration will interpret section 1024 as granting the Secretary of Defense broad discretion to determine what detainee status determinations in Afghanistan are subject to the requirements of this section. [Marcy's emphasis]

    And yet, in spite of the fact that Section 1024 includes no exception for those detained at Bagram, Obama just invented such an exception.

    Section 1024 was one of the few good parts of the detainee provisions in this bill, because it would have finally expanded the due process available to the thousands of detainees who are hidden away at Bagram now with no meaningful review.

    As if the Act wasn't bad enough, the signing statement just makes it worse.

    Seriously, if you close your eyes, can you tell the difference between Bush and Obama?  

    Yeah, me neither.


    a comment by (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 05:59:41 PM EST
    Norris Morris in response to this has been deleted for improper racial comments. The commenter is warned not to repeat or he/she will be banned.

    So, it doesn't comfort you that he (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 09:07:28 PM EST
    made a signing statement?  Me neither.  

    I know people have their ... (5.00 / 6) (#5)
    by Robot Porter on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 08:12:25 PM EST
    tortured (pun intended) reasons for voting for Obama in 2012.  But I cannot see any reason that a progressive could support a president who signed this.

    It is among the worst and most unconstitutional bills ever signed into law by a president.

    What's a fact pattern where this will make a (none / 0) (#10)
    by jpe on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 06:06:07 AM EST
    difference?  Under current law, the US can detain people that are substantial supporters of al-Qaeda.  In what sort of fact pattern could someone be detained post-signing versus pre?

    Wrong! (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Robot Porter on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 07:40:33 AM EST
    From Greenwald's piece:

    Myth #2: The bill does not expand the scope of the War on Terror as defined by the 2001 AUMF

    This myth is very easily dispensed with. The scope of the war as defined by the original 2001 AUMF was, at least relative to this new bill, quite specific and narrow. Here's the full extent of the power the original AUMF granted:

        (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized 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.

    Under the clear language of the 2001 AUMF, the President's authorization to use force was explicitly confined to those who (a) helped perpetrate the 9/11 attack or (b) harbored the perpetrators. That's it. Now look at how much broader the NDAA is with regard to who can be targeted:

    Section (1) is basically a re-statement of the 2001 AUMF. But Section (2) is a brand new addition. It allows the President to target not only those who helped perpetrate the 9/11 attacks or those who harbored them, but also: anyone who "substantially supports" such groups and/or "associated forces." Those are extremely vague terms subject to wild and obvious levels of abuse (see what Law Professor Jonathan Hafetz told me in an interview last week about the dangers of those terms). This is a substantial statutory escalation of the War on Terror and the President's powers under it, and it occurs more than ten years after 9/11, with Osama bin Laden dead, and with the U.S. Government boasting that virtually all Al Qaeda leaders have been eliminated and the original organization (the one accused of perpetrating 9/11 attack) rendered inoperable.

    courts have found that the aumf (none / 0) (#12)
    by jpe on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 09:47:43 AM EST
    supports the detention of those that substantially support al-q or taliban.  So if we assume for the sake of argument that the scotus would uphold the circuit court on this, then at a minimum it's not obvious the ndaa expands detention authority.

    You're still wrong ... (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Robot Porter on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 10:11:05 AM EST
    (read all of Greenwald's piece, all the case law, and consider the treatment of John Walker Lyndh) but it's a weird argument even if you were right.

    It's like saying "Plessy vs. Ferguson" was okay because it didn't really change anything.  It's an odd netherworld logic that many Obama supporters engage in.  And it shows no respect or understanding of the Constitution.

    And if the Constitution doesn't matter to you, we have no common ground on which to have a conversation.  If supporting Obama is more important than supporting the Constitution, then you want a different type of Government than I do or the one we supposedly still have.  


    Liberals Disconnect About Obama (5.00 / 0) (#31)
    by norris morris on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 07:11:05 PM EST
    It's impossible for me to understand the current liberal position of defending Obama on this reprehensible action against Due Process and clear violation of our Constitution.

    There seems to be no moral position that Democrats who voted for this heinous act can defend. Yet the Obamabots are all out for him no matter how duplicitous and wrongheaded Obama's action has become. The death of Due Process is ok?

    Where are the liberals to defend our constitutional rights?  Have any of these mouthpiece propogandists taken a good look at what Obama has signed into law? Read The New York Review Of Books blog about this.  Hardly a right wing blog, as principled liberals and progressives are aghast at this action, and have had no difficulty in rejecting Obama's behavior.

    Defending Obama regarding this is an aspect of the dangers inherent in cult worship that no matter how  harmful and reprehensible Obama's
    behavior, he gets a pass.  It's amazing we've lost our way to this extent.


    once again (none / 0) (#32)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 08:28:35 PM EST
    please watch your commenting. Words like "Obamabot" are not appropriate. If all you want to do is bash Obama like it's the primaries in 2008, please do it elsewhere.

    If you want to criticize the detention bill and Obama for approving it, that's fine. I'm responding because this has been a repeated issue with your comments.


    Turns out the district court has OK'd the standard (none / 0) (#15)
    by jpe on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 11:33:30 AM EST
    The circuit court affirmed the district court w/o deciding on whether the AUMF includes substantial support.  Here's the district court:
    For the reasons explained at length below, the Court agrees with the government that the AUMF functions as an independent basis in domestic law for the President's asserted detention authority, and adopts the basic framework advanced by the government for determining whether an individual is subject to that authority. The Court therefore adopts the "substantial support" standard employed by the government as the governing standard for detention in these cases, but only insofar as the government's announced standard is consistent with that framework.


    re: Plessy: I'm not defending the statute.  I'm just saying that its real-world effects will be close to nil, hyperventilating notwithstanding.


    real-world effects will be close to nil? (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 11:54:17 AM EST
    Yeah, long as it's only somebody else they pick up and disappear you'll be fine...................

    Just keep your nose clean, your head down, your eyes averted, choose your words and your friends carefully, and watch your step.

    Whatever you do don't complain, and don't forget...

    "If you see something, SAY something!"

    Be a good American. Don't try to think.


    I'm with you Edger ... (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by Robot Porter on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 12:17:48 PM EST
    and think I the belief that a government will not use expanded, extra-constitutional, extrajudicial powers is just not supported by logic or history.

    Yes, and (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 12:23:21 PM EST
    Obama's big complaint about this and reason for his signing statement is that in his mind it "limits" him so he has decided to choose to not be limited by it?

    Curious that....


    Yeah, his signing statement ... (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by Robot Porter on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 12:27:29 PM EST
    is almost as chilling as the law.  

    As Harry Belafonte said the other night Obama doesn't appear to have a moral center.


    You know, I think that (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 12:36:32 PM EST
    if this had been done under Bush, and it was Bush making the complaint and signing statement Obama is making now.... the Occupy Movement would be millions of people, and not only wouldn't you be arguing about it with jpe, but you also wouldn't be able to hear yourself think through the screams for impeachment here and all across the blogosphere.

    That's a given! (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by Robot Porter on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    And you don't need to even imagine it.  This kind of stuff did happen under Bush.  And that was the reaction.

    But unfortunately most of the blogosphere is party/Obama loyalist first, everything else a distant gazillionth.


    The guy's an (none / 0) (#23)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 01:13:34 PM EST
    amazing closer, isn't he?

    He has a lot ... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Robot Porter on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 01:18:12 PM EST
    of help.

    You are defending the ... (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Robot Porter on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 12:13:17 PM EST
    statue.  Stop pretending otherwise.

    WSWS on NDAA and Democrats (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Andreas on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 03:40:29 AM EST
    The WSWS writes:

    The Obama administration, with broad support among congressional Democrats, has continued and strengthened the police state framework erected under Bush. Obama has refused to prosecute Bush officials who sanctioned torture, reneged on his campaign pledge to close Guantanamo, expanded the use of "state secrets" to suppress legal suits by victims of torture and domestic spying, continued the practice of "extraordinary rendition," and officially sanctioned and carried out the assassination of US citizens, beginning with the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki earlier this year. His administration has tacitly backed the brutal crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters, carried out largely by Democratic mayors. ...

    Washington's ever more violent turn to aggressive war and its escalating assault on democratic rights are, moreover, linked to the staggering growth of social inequality. War, inequality and repression have grown in proportion to the decline in the world position of American capitalism over recent decades, and have been made all the more virulent by the eruption of global capitalist crisis and the turn by the ruling class to a policy of brutal austerity against the working class.

    The Nation and the National Defense Authorization Act
    By Tom Carter and Barry Grey, 27 December 2011

    Our New Police State (none / 0) (#28)
    by norris morris on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 05:14:23 PM EST
    We can look back on this new Obama obscenity and shudder for our democratic rights for due process.

    This is something Bush/Cheney could have conjured up.

    But leave it to Obama who has the distinction of enabling the beginning of a Police State in America.



    Another ominous component of Sec 1031, (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 10:54:17 AM EST
    that sometimes gets overlooked is "covered persons" includes, potentially, every citizen of the US --military detention and no trial "if suspected of support or belligerent acts against the US or its coalition partners.  

    At present we have approximately 80 coalition partners in the fight on global terrorism--including nations such as Uganda.   And, 'belligerent acts' seems wide open to situational interpretation, and not necessarily, in a good way.  

    I'm Bushed (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 07:24:38 PM EST

    No, Edgar (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Zorba on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 07:42:45 PM EST
    You're not.  But Obama is.    ;-)     Be well in the New Year, my brother.

    Thanks, Zorba (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 09:22:03 PM EST
    It's Edger, actually, as in Edge-er

    I took the name from an old quote by a guy who described today, and Obama, perfectly years ago...

    "The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."
    -- Hunter S. Thompson