President Obama has signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013 into law in spite of his earlier threat to veto the bill that includes a section allowing the military to indefinitely detain American citizens on suspicion of terrorism.
RT reports that the president signed the 2013 NDAA on Wednesday and released a statement later, which said he passed the bill because the need was simply "too great to ignore"
The White House had earlier released a statement that threatened to veto the bill because of provisions that prohibit the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
The White House had likewise said the president would veto the 2012 NDAA because of its indefinite detention provisions, but he finally signed it “with reservations." According to RT, although Obama, in 2012, released a statement that rejected the indefinite detention clause, the statement he issued late Wednesday after signing NDAA 2013, was silent on the matter. However, he expressed opposition to other provisions in the bill, especially those that prevent the closing of Guantanamo Bay.
The statement said: “Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all. Our Constitution does not afford the president the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by one."
Obama accused Congress of designing certain sections of the new defense bill “in order to foreclose my ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.” He continued: “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."
The NDAA, an otherwise routine annual bill that contains a statement of use of funds by the Department of Defense, came to national attention in 2012 after introduction of the provision that allows the military to detain US citizens on suspicion of terrorism without charge or trial.
The 2012 NDAA’s Sec. 1021, gave the military the power to arrest and detain citizens without a writ of habeas corpus. However, when Obama signed NDAA 2012, he made a promise not the abuse the power.
But in December 2012, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), introduced an amendment to prevent the government from using the military to detain citizens indefinitely without trial. The Senate passed the “Feinstein Amendment" unanimously. However, a panel led by the senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan), removed the amendment from NDAA bill. In its place, Congress included a provision, Sec. 1029, that states that “any person inside the United States” is guaranteed the right of habeas corpus and other constitutional rights.
The added provision has, however, come under criticism. According to RT, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) criticized the provision, saying, "The new language [that] ensures the right to habeas corpus (the right to be presented before a judge) is both questionable and not enough. Citizens must not only be formally charged but also receive jury trials and the other protections our Constitution guarantees. Habeas corpus is simply the beginning of due process. It is by no means the whole."
Paul continued: “Our Bill of Rights is not something that can be cherry-picked at legislators’ convenience. When I entered the United States Senate, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is for this reason that I will strongly oppose passage of the McCain conference report that strips the guarantee to a trial by jury."
The Huffington Post reports that civil liberties advocates have voiced their opposition to the signing of the NDAA 2013.
Members of the human rights coalition accused the president of caving to congressional Republicans.
According to The Huffington Post, the American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero, in a statement, said: "President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.”
Shaid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, said: "It's the second time that the president has promised to veto a piece of a very controversial national security legislation only to sign it. He has a habit of promising resistance to national security initiatives that he ultimately ends up supporting and enabling."
Civil liberties groups say they will pursue the lawsuit against the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA because it is unconstitutional. Civil liberties groups also insist that in spite of the provisions contained in the NDAA, it is still possible for the president to close Guantanamo Bay or otherwise free some of the inmates.
According to The Huffiington Post, Dixon Osburn, the director of Human Rights First's Law and Security Program, said: "It's not encouraging that the President continues to be willing to tie his own hands when it comes to closing Guantanamo. The injustice of Guantanamo continues to serve as a stain on American global leadership on human rights."