Wednesday, January 4, 2012
“If President Obama were committed to Constitution and international legal norms, he would veto this bill. Instead, he seems more concerned about consolidating the power of the Executive Branch at the cost of our legal and human rights,” says theNational Lawyers Guild.
J. D. Heyes
It’s called “Washingtonspeak,” and it’s different than the rest of the English language. President Obama used some of it last week when he agreed tosign the National Defense Authorization Actthat allows, among other things,the military to detain American citizens indefinitely, to conduct secret kidnappings of suspected terror suspects (even if they are Americans living on American soil), and murderof same if said suspect is deemed a threat to national security. All without a trial. All without any deference to any other constitutional protection.
Very mindful of what the NDAA truly authorizes, Obama, in signing the legislation, said this: “The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Against that record of success, some in Congress continue to insist upon restricting the options available to our counterterrorism professionals and interfering with the very operations that have kept us safe.”
“My Administration has consistently opposed such measures. Ultimately, I decided to sign this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes, but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people. Moving forward, my Administration will interpret and implement the provisions described in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded.”
The president went onto say that the provisions in question – specifically Sect. 1021, which he said merely “affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.” He describes the provision as “unnecessary.”
President Obama stated: “Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”
In other words, the president is using Washingtonspeak to say healready had the authorityto do what the NDAA law merely “codifies.” So the danger that many Americans, lawmakers and advocacy groups are concerned about is whythis president claimed the authority to kill an American citizen in Yemen earlier this yearwho had not actually carried out any terrorist attacks against the U.S., but was onlysuspectedof wrongdoing.
Is that how it works in America today? No more checks and balances? Or, are there checks and balancesso long as the president interprets and implementsin a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends?
“If President Obama were committed to Constitution and international legal norms, he would veto this bill. Instead, he seems more concerned about consolidating the power of the Executive Branch at the cost of our legal and human rights,” says theNational Lawyers Guild. We agree. This is a terrible law, no matter how Obama and Co. try to spin it.