Obama Rings in the New Year By Signing Bill Allowing Indefinite Detention of Americans

Obama signed the NDAA – including a provision allowing the indefinite detention of Americans – on New Year’s eve.

Obama issued a “signing statement” with the bill, which – at first blush – appears to say he won’t indefinitely detain Americans. Specifically, Obama wrote:

My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens … Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.

But a closer reading shows that the signing statement is just smoke and mirrors.

Specifically, it was Obama – not Congress – who originally requested that an exception for American citizens be removed from the bill. As such, his professed reluctance is wholly disingenuous.

Moreover, Obama signed a bill which would allow future presidents to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, and his signing statement in no way limits their power to run roughshod over our rights.

As the ACLU notes:

The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. 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. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“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.”

Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again. The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA. In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.

“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court,” said Romero. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today. Thankfully, we have three branches of government, and the final word belongs to the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the scope of detention authority. But Congress and the president also have a role to play in cleaning up the mess they have created because no American citizen or anyone else should live in fear of this or any future president misusing the NDAA’s detention authority.”

In addition, Obama has claimed the power to assassinate American citizens without any trial or charge. Obama’s signing statement doesn’t even pretend to limit that power.

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  • Thank you, GW.

    NDAA 2012 (National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012) explicitly states dictatorial authority of the US executive branch to order US military to seize any person, including US citizens, for unlimited detention and without rights.

    This repeats explicit language in the 2006 Military Commissions Act.

    Because US government’s 1% “leadership” has tortured, refused to stop or prosecute torture under “new” “leadership” of Obama, now assassinates American citizens upon the dictation of the president, and repeats legislative language in NDAA 2012 again to “disappear” American citizens, Americans’ choice in 2012 seems clear: either arrest the criminal 1% “leadership” for obvious War Crimes, or suffer the torture of your neighbors, friends, family, and yourself in 2012.

  • It was one of the most bi-partisan laws passed in this session.

    Why is it that they can only agree when it comes to removing constitutional rights?

    • Benjamin Franklin

      Because military spending was attached. The Party faithful ask ‘what could Obama have done?’ He could veto, but the override was almost certain, given the dems unwillingness to provide cover and support for Obama. BUT>>>>>Obama could have turned the tables with a veto, on principle, and that might have rallied the reluctant troops.

  • joe B

    As an American citizen, I hesitate to comment given the possible interpretations of this legislation, coward that I am.

  • Jay Rowland

    This is just plain awful. Every American should be disgusted.

  • That Carl Levin video is an edited fake according to the comments and the following: http://www.politicususa.com/en/ndaa-breitbarted

    • It took me an hour or two of watching C-SPAN video and reading the transcript to confirm that PoliticsUSA.com is WRONG. And after looking at that site it’s obvious they are full of crap about a lot of things. Sorry that I didn’t do enough research when I posted that earlier!

  • Conscience of a Conservative

    Carl Levin pointed out that the inclusion of this act against American citizens was not in the committe version of the bill and put back by the Obama administration. I’m including Carl levin’s speech which I think is important here.


    Acts like this, sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans is one reason I believe
    Libertarian party principles are resonating so much.

  • I’m with you Joe; the first round of indefinite detentions is likely to be the folks who criticized the legislation. There is a much deeper mystery behind Obama’s demagoguery than meets the eye; to solve the mystery, take a look at “Where’s Voldemort?”, free at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/110097

  • It isn’t really as bad as it sounds on the surface because there are provisions in it that limit it to enemy combatants abroad from what I have seen.
    Maybe I’m wrong but, Obama can only go so far in this act (Bush and Cheney also pushed for this when they were in power) as far as people in the United States are concerned.
    The only other thing I can say is … God Bless America!

    • free 4 me

      idiot!!! read a book….these are your civil liberties, taken.

  • Publius

    Fascist intent by government, broken elections controlled by machines and felons, hand picked candidates whose only loyalty is to their masters, citizens who refuse to fight for freedom, this is the United States of 2012. Remarkbly the outcome of civi freedom and permisisble participation in politics reults in totalitariansm. Or is it remarkable at all? May it not be simply that the few always rule over the many because the many are but simply a mob, a mass, a many faced beast with only a stomch and no brain or backbone?

  • Wayne

    HR 1540, section 1021 seems to clash with section 8a of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, since it is part of an appropriations Act.

    “SEC. 8. (a) Authority to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances shall not be inferred–
    (1) from any provision of law (whether or not in effect before the date of the enactment of this joint resolution), including any provision contained in any appropriation Act, unless such provision specifically authorizes the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into such situations and stating that it is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of this joint resolution; or …”

  • Roaring Mouse

    This legislation raises the stakes in every arrest or detainment of a US citizen. If the odds of being disappeared forever are now non-negligible, how will you respond if they come for you? How did the Jews peacefully going along with the Nazis work out for them?

  • Charlie Flatt

    Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917 was amended in 1933 classifying US citizens as ‘enemy combatants’ of the US Federal Corporation.

  • It took me an hour or two of watching C-SPAN video and reading the transcript to confirm that PoliticsUSA.com is WRONG. And after looking at that site it’s obvious they are full of crap about a lot of things. Sorry that I didn’t do enough research when I posted that earlier!

  • Ziggy

    I agree that the “pyschopath” meme deserves much greater recognition and awareness.

    By today’s standards, a “terrorist” may or may not in fact be a psychopath. But a psychopath is indeed a terrorist in almost every instance. Policies and behaviors that serve to destroy the quality of life of the 99 percent can not be seen a normative – quite the opposite. Find a politician, CEO or anyone else whose practices and beliefs diminish the health, hopes and opportunities of the broader public and you’ve got yourself a potential psychopath.

  • eduardo