Obama's Signing Statement on NDAA and Guantanamo

President Obama signed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014) in Hawaii today.

He also released this signing statement criticizing Congress for its restrictions on transferring Gitmo detainees to the U.S. and preventing federal trials.

Obama needs to step up the pressure on closing Gitmo. One of his first acts in office in 2009 was to issue an executive order promising the closure of Gitmo in a year. It will not be good for his legacy if Gitmo is still up and running when he leaves office 8 years later. Then again, he also released a similar statement last year, so who knows what his intentions are. [More...]

I agree with his statement that Congress has been the obstructionist here. In his words today:

Since taking office, I have repeatedly called upon the Congress to work with my Administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The continued operation of the facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.

For the past several years, the Congress has enacted unwarranted and burdensome restrictions that have impeded my ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo.

On having the authority to try detainees in federal court:

The executive branch must have the authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests. For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorists in Federal court. Those prosecutions are a legitimate, effective, and powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation. Removing that tool from the executive branch does not serve our national security interests. Moreover, section 1034 would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles.

The statement ends with a bit of a veiled threat:

In the event that the restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees in sections 1034 and 1035 operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my Administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.

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    For some reason I thought (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by fishcamp on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 09:37:37 AM EST
    the US acquired Guantanamo after the Bay of Pigs debacle but not so.  My Apple dictionary says Guantanamo Bay has been militarily occupied by the USA since 1898 when it was captured from Spain in the Battle of Guantanamo Bay and then leased from Cuba in 1903.  There have been more than twenty suicides but three of them allegedly happened at Camp No, a black site, in January 2010 after enhanced interrogation the night of their suicides.  We need to close this place.

    Phucking tenants, I tell ya (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 10:03:08 AM EST
    Rail against the tyranny of their landlord, then pay him so you can keep playing in his backyard.

    Yes, the tenant got quite a (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by KeysDan on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 10:48:02 AM EST
    good deal on that lease.  Signed in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, for purposes of a coaling and naval base, in, essentially, perpetuity, for $2000 a month.  The base is about 45 sq miles on Cuba's southeastern tip.  The rent was increased in 1934 to $4085,

    After the Cuban revolution in 1959, the US continued to send checks to the "Treasurer General", a position no longer existent in the new Cuban government.  However, the US legal claim is that the lease was ratified by the new government by its cashing of one check (which the Cubans claim was done in the confusion of the revolution aftermath).

    All checks issued by the tenant to the landlord, thereafter, have not been cashed and are, according to lore, kept in a desk drawer.  The lease does not seem to have or prevent sub-leasing (and we may not have to consult with them, since we do not have diplomatic relations), so if we pulled out we might be able to work with developers for resort condominiums--whose new income would delight deficit scolds.


    Brilliant! (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by squeaky on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 12:52:50 PM EST
    I think your idea of turning Guantanamo into a luxury resort is brilliant. Teardown of the military torture chambers and replace them with luxury condos..  

    Since placing the innocent victims of US indefinite detention (and torture) is one biggest problems we can place all todays Gitmo prisoners into luxury condos, give them each a penthouse lease and  
    $1million cash..  and let the American way of capitalism work its way through the rest of the story yet to be written.


    And, the new income (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by KeysDan on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 12:57:57 PM EST
    might permit us to extend unemployment benefits, or food stamps, or increase (rather than cut) social security benefits.  On second thought, probably the money would be better spent on reducing capital gains taxes or increasing corporate farm subsidies and watch for the trickle down effect.

    I say a golf course (none / 0) (#11)
    by Dadler on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 01:00:41 PM EST
    And you leave some of the prison/gulag there to act as hazards. Instead of lakes or sand traps you have waterboards traps, or you have to hit shots while tied by your ankles to the ceiling. That's when technique really takes over.

    Yes, (none / 0) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 01:10:42 PM EST
    just Par for the course.

    We could get more useful info (none / 0) (#4)
    by jondee on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 10:33:59 AM EST
    out of those guys if we dosed 'em with organic mescaline and had them listen to Glenn Gould's version of the Goldberg Variations, but that method probably wouldn't be macho/sadistic enough for the enhanced interrogation tough guys..

    People trained through primitive Skinnerian methods themselves, as most people in the military are, have a hard time grasping that people can think and learn and communicate outside of the narrow experiential box of positive and hegative reinforcement  


    And a huge number will later become cops (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Dadler on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    And we'll have to deal with them in that context for the rest of our lives.

    Oh joy.


    Yeah, and cynics like us (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:50:48 PM EST
    probably notice the skinhead look cops favor nowadays.

    Kinda hard not to notice (none / 0) (#28)
    by Dadler on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 09:20:31 PM EST
    Used to be the moustache.

    A bit of background: (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 10:29:02 AM EST
    Daily Beast - How the President bungled the Guantanamo Closing:

    The fight over restrictions to fund the closure of the prison was led on the Democratic side by then-House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI), and Reps. Jack Murtha (D-PA) and Jim Moran (D-VA). In an interview Thursday with The Daily Beast, Moran said that when fight was on, the White House was nowhere to be found.

    "They left all of us twisting in the wind," he said. "Rightly or wrongly, they gave us a very clear impression, `You're on your own on this issue.'"

    That's always a good way (none / 0) (#6)
    by CoralGables on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:19:49 AM EST
    to pass the buck when you fail at something. Blame someone that doesn't have a vote.

    Taking a page (none / 0) (#7)
    by jbindc on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 12:34:14 PM EST
    from the administration itself.

    Yeah? (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by jbindc on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 12:42:05 PM EST
    Since taking office, I have repeatedly called upon the Congress to work with my Administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

    How loudly and how many times did he do that in 2009-2010 when he had a Democratic congress? It's called "passing the buck."

    As CG noted above:

    That's always a good way to pass the buck when you fail at something.

    Yeah... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:44:08 PM EST
    ...the idea that the head of the military can't move prisoners of war or enemy combatants or whatever you want to call them, is simply absurd.  

    I don't remember GWB trying to get permission when he moved them to GITMO, but all of a sudden the Commander in Chief needs Congressional approval is IMO nothing more than political grandstanding.

    What no one can tell me is why he asked permission to begin with.  I will never believe that function isn't w/i the Commander in Chief's responsibilities.


    National Defense Authorization Act FY 2012 (none / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:56:40 PM EST
    What That Got to Do With 2008/2009 ? (none / 0) (#19)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:16:25 PM EST
    You asked why the president can't (none / 0) (#20)
    by jbindc on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:20:51 PM EST
    unilaterally close GITMO.

    The bill (he signed) says he can't do it without the approval of Congress.

    He came into office in 2009 - with a Democratic Congress.  Squawky was the one who was talking about 2008-2009.


    So Was I... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:29:06 PM EST
    ...my point was the Commander in Chief should have never asked permission in regards to moving prisoners of war.  Unprecedented.

    Not to mention... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by kdog on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:53:30 PM EST
    he still can close the joint anytime he wants...he just can't transfer the prisoners of war to US soil.  

    Sh*t he should just close the base, bring all the screws and spooks home, and give the detainees a boat and six months worth of rations to figure something out for themselves since nobody in the US government can be bothered taking responsibility for this massive f*ck-up.


    We've held POWs on US soil before (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by unitron on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 07:10:05 PM EST
    Germans, during both WWI and WWII, so it's not exactly unprecedented.

    Unprecedented... (none / 0) (#30)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 01:01:00 PM EST
    ...in that a President asked Congress permission to move POW's.

    Pretty Sure... (none / 0) (#29)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 12:58:53 PM EST
    ...that closing a military base does take Congressional approval.

    Democratic Congress??? (3.50 / 2) (#17)
    by squeaky on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:06:28 PM EST
    Yes, that should have been easy, but there was certainly nowhere close to a majority of D's who would risk the hot potato of Gitmo.

    Your memory is poor, jbindc.


    Really? (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by jbindc on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:14:07 PM EST
    The six Democrats who voted against the measure include some of their party's most prominent voices on military affairs and criminal justice issues. Among them were Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

    Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the majority whip; Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island were the others voting against the measure.

    And so what if it was going to be hard to as you say, "risk the hot potato of GITMO"?  That's their job - I don't give a rat's behind if it's "hard."  If their job is too hard, then they should get out of the way for someone who IS willing to do it.

    More excuses that don't change the bottom line - the D's controlled the Congress.


    hahahah (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by squeaky on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:24:46 PM EST
    A large majority of their constituents, were 100% behind the Senators. They were doing their job as elected officials. Gitmo was and still is popular.

    It was Obama who was out of step with the majority of Americans.

    And I am sure that you, being a tough on crime diehard, would never vote for your senator who wanted to put Gitmo detainees near your back yard.


    D's Controlled Congress (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by squeaky on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:40:27 PM EST
    Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said that none of Guantánamo's detainees should be transferred to the US to stand trial or serve time in prison. "We don't want them around," he said. "I can't make it any more clear ... We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States."....

    ...."The American people don't want these men walking the streets of America's neighbourhoods," Senator John Thune, a Republican, said today. "The American people don't want these detainees held at a military base or federal prison in their backyard, either."

    Where is this idea coming from... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by unitron on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 07:06:12 PM EST
    ...that moving them from Gitmo to the US means we're just going to let them stroll off of the plane and go wherever they want to?

    They're still going to be in custody until their case is "settled" somehow, and then they'll be shipped back home or somewhere over there if they aren't convicted of something and tossed into a supermax here.


    Where? (none / 0) (#27)
    by squeaky on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 07:44:54 PM EST
    Haven't you been following the news since 9/11? Remember BushCo Alerts? America is terrified about the muslim terrorists taking our way of life from us.

    oh, you say that they did?

    OK... that explains it.

    Guess the big question is who are they and who gets the most benefit?