Obama signs Defense Authorization Bill

January 2, 2012

President Obama used the last day of  2011 to sign the defense authorization bill, formally ending weeks of heated debate in Congress and intense lobbying by the administration. Obama’s main justification is found in his signing statement:

I have signed the Act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families, and vital national security programs that must be renewed.  

Yet many have decried the bill’s language that would allow indefinite detention for suspected terrorists without a trial–including Americans arrested in the United States. Among those critics are Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, both retired four-star Marine generals, who wrote an article for The New York Times issuing their strong concerns about the bill. Here are a few quotes from their article:

This budget bill — which can be vetoed without cutting financing for our troops — is both misguided and unnecessary: the president already has the power and flexibility to effectively fight terrorism.

One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past. Some claim that this provision would merely codify existing practice. Current law empowers the military to detain people caught on the battlefield, but this provision would expand the battlefield to include the United States — and hand Osama bin Laden an unearned victory long after his well-earned demise.


Mandatory military custody would reduce, if not eliminate, the role of federal courts in terrorism cases. Since 9/11, the shaky, untested military commissions have convicted only six people on terror-related charges, compared with more than 400 in the civilian courts.

 A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantánamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future. Not only would this bolster Al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts, it also would make it nearly impossible to transfer 88 men (of the 171 held there) who have been cleared for release. We should be moving to shut Guantánamo, not extend it.

Admittedly, Obama did express some dissatisfaction with the bill:

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

But many might agree with Beverly Wagner, a student at the Community College of Allegheny County, who wrote:

Mr. President…if you have serious reservations about a bill…VETO IT! 


TP Home: BREAKING: Obama Signs Defense Authorization Bill (including Obama’s signing statement)
NationalJournal: Obama Signs Defense Authorization Bill
The New York Times: Guantánamo Forever?


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