Here's what the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) boils down to: while ostensibly designed to fight Al Qaeda terrorists, it means the government can arrest you, accuse you of being a terrorist, and disappear you forever. No evidence will be required, and you will not be allowed to plead your case before a judge.
The initially-threatened presidential veto of NDA had nothing to do with Obama being a champion of civil liberties. He has never been a champion of civil liberties. He simply did not like the original language of the act, which would have stripped down his executive power as judge, jury and executioner. Senator Carl Levin (who is being blamed by Obamapologists for this debacle) made it clear that the bill was being tweaked at the request of the White House. Moreover, said Levin, it was Obama who insisted that American citizens not be exempted from the indefinite detainment clause. So according to the New York Times, the White House is now satisfied that the bill
"does not challenge or constrain the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the president’s senior advisors will not recommend a veto."
Glenn Greenwald has been saying for a long time that Obama, and Bush/Cheney before him, have always had the self-bestowed judicial powers now officially granted to presidents. He was not at all surprised that the president has suddenly dropped his veto threat. From his blog:
Under the new law, even your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent will be tossed out the window. Law Professor Patricia J.Williams of Columbia University writes:Both groups pointed (ACLU and Human Rights Watch) out that this is the first time indefinite detention has been enshrined in law since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, when — as the ACLU put it — “President Truman had the courage to veto” the Internal Security Act of 1950 on the ground that it “would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights” and then watched Congress override the veto. That Act authorized the imprisonment of Communists and other “subversives” without the necessity of full trials or due process (many of the most egregious provisions of that bill were repealed by the 1971 Non-Detention Act, and are now being rejuvenated by these War on Terror policies of indefinite detention). President Obama, needless to say, is not Harry Truman. He’s not even the Candidate Obama of 2008 who repeatedly insisted that due process and security were not mutually exclusive and who condemned indefinite detention as ”black hole” injustice.
During the Congressional debate over the NDAA, proponents like Senators Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham argued that when we capture someone who is deemed an enemy, we must start with the presumption that “the goal is to gather intelligence” and “prosecution is a secondary concern.” In numbingly infantile terms, they declared that “the meanest, nastiest killers in the world” should be questioned for “as long as it takes,” without them “lawyering up.” This need to make “them” talk was cited repeatedly, endlessly, as the main justification for military detention, with references to “surprise” technologies to get prisoners to speak. As though Abu Ghraib had never happened, there was exuberant embrace of methods Senator Graham promised would not be publicized by the Army Field Manual.Look for the government getting hauled into court once Obama signs this bill into law. It's not only blatantly unconstitutional, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It's un-American:
While the government has the right, under the laws of war, to detain prisoners captured on the battlefield until the end of hostilities, no president should have the power to declare the entire globe a war zone and then seize and detain civilian terrorism suspects anywhere in the world — including within the United States — and to hold them forever without charge or trial. But the Bush and Obama administrations have done just that, defining their powers too broadly, and claiming the authority to pick up and detain without charge or trial prisoners from around the globe who they deem engaged in the "war on terror."
|Dec. 15, 2011: Happy 220th Anniversary to the Bill of Rights|
Not that he ever heeds petitions from unmonied mortals, but here's where to sign to voice your displeasure to President Obama. I wrote in the little message box that theoretically, once Barack is out of office, the next president -- say, Newt --can declare him an enemy of the state and send him to one of those Halliburton detention camps that are rumored to exist.