Promises, Promises: President Obama’s NDAA Signing Statement

This time last year, President Obama responded to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act with a signing statement. Objecting to the law's restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for trial or to their home countries, the president promised: "My Administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future." (My emphasis).

This past New Year's eve, President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. In doing so, he extended the Guantanamo transfer restrictions, while also codifying the indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists. In the statement he issued with that signature, he said:

"I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists."

The pledge to seek repeal and oppose expansion of transfer restrictions had melted into a watery "reservation."

The president's Saturday statement also makes a new promise.

"I want to clarify that 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." Although the Obama Administration has consistently claimed the power to kill U.S. citizens without charge or trial in the war on terror, as it did to the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, the president now promises not to imprison them.

Of course, a future president still might

There's more...

Promises, Promises: President Obama’s NDAA Signing Statement

This time last year, President Obama responded to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act with a signing statement. Objecting to the law's restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for trial or to their home countries, the president promised: "My Administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future." (My emphasis).

This past New Year's eve, President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. In doing so, he extended the Guantanamo transfer restrictions, while also codifying the indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists. In the statement he issued with that signature, he said:

"I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists."

The pledge to seek repeal and oppose expansion of transfer restrictions had melted into a watery "reservation."

The president's Saturday statement also makes a new promise.

"I want to clarify that 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." Although the Obama Administration has consistently claimed the power to kill U.S. citizens without charge or trial in the war on terror, as it did to the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, the president now promises not to imprison them.

Of course, a future president still might

There's more...

Egyptian Elections: Five reasons to stick with the process as uncertainty follows recent vote

Political parties with clear Islamic identities appear to be gaining a majority in preliminary results from Egypt’s first round of parliamentary elections: the Muslim Brotherhood backed Freedom and Justice Party has around 40% of the vote and a further 25% went to the more extreme Salafi, An-Nour party. While the Brotherhood and the FJP have pledged to respect democratic principles and the rights of other Egyptians, the Salafis are explicitly hostile to the rights of women and minorities and to freedom of expression.

These parties believe that the law of God is superior to that of men and that they are in unique possession of the authoritative interpretation of the divine will. Their apparent strength is bad news for human rights in Egypt, but it should focus the minds of those who wish to see Egypt’s democratic transition move forward.

Here are five reasons not to give up on Egypt’s democratic transition at the first hurdle:

 

There's more...

First Guantanamo Trial in New York City: So Not Scary

The first trial of a former Guantanamo detainee in a U.S. federal court began in New York City this week. With jury selection completed, opening arguments will begin Monday for Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.

I went to the jury questioning and it was just another day at court, with a second terrorism trial happening next door. Outside the courthouse, there were no protests or demonstrations along the lines of what was staged by groups like Liz Cheney's Keep America Safe last December after the Obama administration announced it would try the September 11 co-conspirators in a New York federal court. In fact, Cheney and Co. were bizarrely quiet about this trial.

Human Rights First staff interviewed New Yorkers on the street in front of the courthouse while proceedings began. The overwhelming response was nonchalance, or confidence. Far from the nightmare scenarios predicted by those who oppose civilian trials for the 9/11 defendants. Watch the video released yesterday:

If you didn't already know the trial was going on, you'd never know that anything was different at all in the Southern District of New York courthouse and in the immediate vicinity. Sure, security was tight, but it always is. Observers had to pass through the usual metal detectors and check in their cell phones. It was business as usual.

In fact, although most New Yorkers don't realize it, there are now two major terrorism trials going on in the downtown Manhattan courthouse. In addition to Ghailani's, there's the case of four men charged with planting what they thought were bombs outside two Bronx synagogues, and planning to fire missiles at military planes. That trial, which hinges on the role of a government informant, has been going on for five weeks now without any safety incidents.

As this trial gets underway, you have to wonder what all the fuss was about. Civilian courts have convicted 400 terrorists since 9/11. Military commissions, 4. The trial itself has caused no disruption in lower Manhattan and is running smoothly.

I will be headed to Guantánamo later this month to witness the military commissions trial of Omar Khadr. Instead of taking the subway to the proceedings, I'll be flown down and escorted by U.S. government officials to a facility that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and an additional $125 million every year to maintain. This doesn't seem to add up.

 

 

First Guantanamo Trial in New York City: So Not Scary

The first trial of a former Guantanamo detainee in a U.S. federal court began in New York City this week. With jury selection completed, opening arguments will begin Monday for Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.

I went to the jury questioning and it was just another day at court, with a second terrorism trial happening next door. Outside the courthouse, there were no protests or demonstrations along the lines of what was staged by groups like Liz Cheney's Keep America Safe last December after the Obama administration announced it would try the September 11 co-conspirators in a New York federal court. In fact, Cheney and Co. were bizarrely quiet about this trial.

Human Rights First staff interviewed New Yorkers on the street in front of the courthouse while proceedings began. The overwhelming response was nonchalance, or confidence. Far from the nightmare scenarios predicted by those who oppose civilian trials for the 9/11 defendants. Watch the video released yesterday:

If you didn't already know the trial was going on, you'd never know that anything was different at all in the Southern District of New York courthouse and in the immediate vicinity. Sure, security was tight, but it always is. Observers had to pass through the usual metal detectors and check in their cell phones. It was business as usual.

In fact, although most New Yorkers don't realize it, there are now two major terrorism trials going on in the downtown Manhattan courthouse. In addition to Ghailani's, there's the case of four men charged with planting what they thought were bombs outside two Bronx synagogues, and planning to fire missiles at military planes. That trial, which hinges on the role of a government informant, has been going on for five weeks now without any safety incidents.

As this trial gets underway, you have to wonder what all the fuss was about. Civilian courts have convicted 400 terrorists since 9/11. Military commissions, 4. The trial itself has caused no disruption in lower Manhattan and is running smoothly.

I will be headed to Guantánamo later this month to witness the military commissions trial of Omar Khadr. Instead of taking the subway to the proceedings, I'll be flown down and escorted by U.S. government officials to a facility that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and an additional $125 million every year to maintain. This doesn't seem to add up.

 

 

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