Obama's Signing Statement on Guantanamo

Here is President Obama's signing statement objecting to portions of the NDAA. His statement on restricting the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo:

This provision hinders the Executive's ability to carry out its military, national security, and foreign relations activities and would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers. The Congress designed these sections, and has here renewed them once more, in order to foreclose my ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. [More...]

I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies. My Administration will interpret these provisions as consistent with existing and future determinations by the agencies of the Executive responsible for detainee transfers. And, in the event that these statutory restrictions operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my Administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.

On the prohibition of transfer to the U.S. for federal trial:

“My administration will interpret these provisions as consistent with existing and future determinations by the agencies of the executive responsible for detainee transfers,” Obama said. “In the event that these statutory restrictions operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.”

This year's NDAA contained some new restrictions:

The bill extended and strengthened limits on transfers out of Guantánamo to troubled nations like Yemen, the home country of the bulk of the remaining low-level detainees who have been cleared for repatriation. It also, for the first time, limited the Pentagon’s ability to transfer the roughly 50 non-Afghan citizens being held at the Parwan prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan at a time when the future of American detention operations there is murky.

Obama signed the bill into law Wednesday.

The cost of Gitmo is enormous. There are 166 remaining detainees at Gitmo. The Miami Herald reports:

1,700 troops and civilians serve on temporary or contract duties — in a setting where the Pentagon imports everything from food to fuel for electricity to entertainment for both captives and captors.

...The Obama administration has estimated the costs of keeping a captive at Guantánamo as topping $800,000 per prisoner per year. A Government Accountability Office study on the possibility of relocating Guantanamo captives to U.S. soil estimated the cost of one year’s federal confinement in a maximum security lockup at $34,627.55 a year.

DOJ has cleared 55 detainees for release, mostly Yemenis and Syrians, but they can't leave because of the Congress' restrictions.

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    He could easily take this argument... (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Dadler on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:46:41 AM EST
    ...straight to the American people, like he could with any number of supposed major disagreements with the insane Right (he did just win re-election, no?)  In fact, that would seem to be the better route, since the Right has no interest in doing anything to help anyone, not even themselves. So...you go around them, over their heads, you blow right past them, and you beat them at a game of YOUR choosing, of YOUR design. But that requires imagination and creativity, and, sigh, you know the rest. Plus, from his actions, Obama can't really be viewed as believing this stuff too much. When we murder innocent folks by drone, for example, our enemies are just as "strengthened," if not more so.

    And (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by lentinel on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:00:06 AM EST
    that was our choice.
    Between him, and Romney.

    As we go along, I must wonder what the difference would have been.


    So, when is a veto threat not a (5.00 / 7) (#2)
    by Anne on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:22:32 AM EST
    veto threat?  When Barack Obama is the one issuing it, apparently.

    Charlie Pierce had some thoughts on this subject:

    I'm sure we will soon hear from some people that the fact that the president signed the new National Defense Authorization Act today, despite a previous promise to veto the measure if provisions that prevented him from closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay were included, because he has a "long game" strategy designed to "put the Republicans in a corner." He also endorsed, by his signature, the principle embodied in the act that Americans can be detained indefinitely without probable cause on the suspicion of "supporting" terrorism which, of course, will mean whatever the executive department or the Commander In Chief -- Trumpets, please -- decide that it means.


    Yes, Congress has partly tied his hands, and it has done so by making it harder for him to close Gitmo down. But, even against that, the president argues for the supremacy of the executive branch in such matters. That, coupled with a veto warning that was as empty as a toddler's threat to run away from home, vitiates any case the president might choose to make that what he really wants to do is to protect the Bill Of Rights. The presidency has been allowed to become a dangerous beast over a number of decades, to the point where anyone who seeks it can rightly be presumed to have at least the spark of lawless authoritarianism in him. And, if that spark is there, the presidency will seek it out and bring it to flame. This president is no different.


    This is what you get when you don't listen to old Ike's warning, when you let the Kennedys run amuck concerning Castro, when you let Lyndon fake an incident in the Tonkin Gulf, when you impeach Nixon over a burglary and not the illegal  bombing of Cambodia, when you let everyone skate on Iran-Contra, when you impeach one president over a blowjob but let another one slide for lying the country into a war, for abrogating treaties and violating international law regarding torture, when you let a sociopath like Richard Cheney anywhere near the levers of power, and when you let a president decide which American lives or dies by standards he declines to share with the rest of us. This is what you get. Barack Obama didn't sell out the Bill Of Rights today because he's Barack Obama. Barack Obama sold out the Bill Of Rights today because he's the president of the United States, and that's now part of the damn job description.

    All I can say is, it's long past time we stopped thinking that "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" means what we thought it did.

    Obama (5.00 / 5) (#5)
    by lentinel on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:58:09 AM EST
    issued a veto threat, and then he signs.

    If I were in the opposition, I would be quite confident that when Obama says he will stand firm, he will wilt like an old daisy.


    Ugggghhh ... a first year teacher ... (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Yman on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:58:25 AM EST
    ... would know that, if you don't follow through with promised consequences, the kids will never take you seriously.

    With some people, a veto threat (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by shoephone on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:54:31 PM EST
    is just like a filibuster threat. FISA 2008...

    With (none / 0) (#20)
    by lentinel on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 03:00:20 PM EST
    this guy, it"s all a load of ....

    Irony (none / 0) (#9)
    by vicndabx on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:03:15 PM EST
    a web page w/a post about the President "selling out" on the Bill of Rights is itself preceeded by multiple pages of bot-loading tracking code - or am I the only one who gets the 10-second please wait while the page loads message?

    ::shrug:: (3.50 / 2) (#10)
    by sj on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:13:38 PM EST
    It's not as bad as the MSNBC website.  But talking about the delivery by the website is one way to [attempt to] divert the conversation from the content.

    gotta luv ya sj (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by vicndabx on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:29:13 PM EST
    always itchin' for a fight :-)

    no diversion, just making an observation. can't a guy make a point w/o an ulterior motive?


    Itching for a fight? (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by sj on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:33:24 PM EST
    Not really.  Just an eye for not-so-smooth changes of subject and other red herrings.  I have lots of siblings (smart ones, too) so the skill is pretty well-honed.

    This guy, (none / 0) (#19)
    by lentinel on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 02:59:31 PM EST
    this guy, I'd like to confront him in a poker game.

    Oooo wee!


    I've thought this for quite some time (none / 0) (#23)
    by Mojo56 on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:34:52 AM EST

    Don't call my bluff? LOL. Of course maybe it is 2nd or 3rd level thinking...Nah.


    i'm a bit confused. (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by cpinva on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:29:25 AM EST
    When we murder innocent folks by drone, for example, our enemies are just as "strengthened," if not more so.

    is there a moral difference, between "collateral damage by unmanned drone", vs "collateral damage by ground troops, artillery, ship-to-shore fire, manned bombers/fighters, or infantry/seal teams? last i checked, dead is, well, dead, regardless of you come to be that way.

    this whole "killing civilians by accident, by unmanned drones, is immoral" argument strikes me as ludicrous, at best. wars are not fought by the marquess of queensbury rules, and never have been. to argue that killing your enemy, by unmanned drone, with the same (or more or less, i don't know) probability of accidentally killing unarmed civilians, is somehow less moral than killing them by other means, strikes me, and always has as, sophomoric.

    the real issue is, should we be killing anyone, absent either: a. a declared war, by congress., or b. due process.? how we go about killing them is kind of irrelevant.

    Sure, (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by lentinel on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:51:23 AM EST
    the people we happen to kill because they insisted on being where they live are dead.

    But, we offer sincere apologies.
    So everybody feels much better.


    Not always an apology, (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by KeysDan on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:33:43 PM EST
    but an admonition.   Drone adventurism includes everyone within the vicinity (especially males) of the targeted object can be deemed a combatant, even if a civilian, and liable to be decimated.  

    Yeah, (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by lentinel on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 02:58:07 PM EST
    but that is not always the case.
    Al-Aulaqi's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, did not receive any warning.
    He was killed while having lunch by the roadside.
    All Obama had to say, via his rep, was that the 16 year old should have picked a different father - you know, the guy they killed two weeks earlier.

    So, this 16 year old ("targeted object") apparently did not receive the appropriate admonition, which would have been to go to the moon.

    I do not like what our government has become.
    Too much like Nazis for my taste.


    New Rule: Admonitions (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by KeysDan on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 03:16:50 PM EST
    may be posthumous.  

    I have to agree that the drone strikes and (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by ruffian on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 10:35:20 AM EST
    many other things that have happened since Gitmo was a hot topic have long replaced Gitmo as the 'creating new terrorists' machine.

    Obama is only paying lip service to Gitmo at all anymore because he is on record as opposing it. It rings pretty hollow.


    I have to agree too (none / 0) (#13)
    by Politalkix on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:33:34 PM EST
    that a lot of other things have happened since Gitmo for "creating new terrorists machine"
    eg: providing polio vaccination to children, teenage girls trying to get educated, etc.
    The fight to eradicate polio or spread education is creating new terrorists every day!

    I guess the Pakistani people ... (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by Yman on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 02:24:47 PM EST
    ... just don't appreciate a good thing when they see it ...

    Roughly three-in-four Pakistanis (74%) consider the U.S. an enemy, up from 69% last year and 64% three years ago. And President Obama is held in exceedingly low regard...

    ... Pakistan is the only country where ratings for Obama are no better than the ratings President George W. Bush received during his final year in office



    Our last actual (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Zorba on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 01:33:10 PM EST
    declared war by Congress was World War II.  Which means that all the so-called "wars" from Korea onward, were not formally, Constitutionally actual "wars."
    Of course, that does not mean that a whole lot of people were not killed.
    And forget about due process, and the illegality of extra-judicial killings.  I agree that we should not be doing any of this, cpinva.  But we seem to have lost that argument long ago.  Unfortunately.   :-(

    WSWS on signing of NDAA (none / 0) (#22)
    by Andreas on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 11:13:41 AM EST
    The WSWS writes:

    The signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 Wednesday puts paid to the predictions by the administration's liberal and pseudo-left supporters that Obama, freed of re-election concerns, would pursue a more "progressive" political course in his second term. As in 2012, this legislation enshrines a sweeping assault on core constitutional principles and democratic rights.

    The legislation's provisions underscore the link between the eruption of American militarism abroad and the lurch toward police-state measures at home.

    Obama signs Pentagon bill maintaining Guantanamo and military detention
    By Bill Van Auken, 5 January 2013