(UPDATE x 2) “My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens”

Via ThinkProgress, the full text of the president’s signing statement on NDAA addresses both of everyone’s favorite sections:

Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note). This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, 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. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

Section 1022 seeks to require military custody for a narrow category of non-citizen detainees who are “captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” This section is ill-conceived and will do nothing to improve the security of the United States. The executive branch already has the authority to detain in military custody those members of al-Qa’ida who are captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the AUMF, and as Commander in Chief I have directed the military to do so where appropriate. I reject any approach that would mandate military custody where law enforcement provides the best method of incapacitating a terrorist threat. While section 1022 is unnecessary and has the potential to create uncertainty, I have signed the bill because I believe that this section can be interpreted and applied in a manner that avoids undue harm to our current operations. (Emphasis mine)

As I keep saying, this entire episode has been about Congress, not the president, playing warmonger. The Cheneyites on the Senate Armed Services Committee wanted to make the black site system permanent; the president has fought them. That is the full story of the real NDAA — the National Defense Authorization Act, a routine spending bill that has been passed forty-eight years in a row. So can the truth make front pages now?

UPDATE: Of course not! The ACLU won’t give up:

We are extremely disappointed that President Obama signed this bill even though his administration is already claiming overly-broad detention authority in court. Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back those claims dimmed today.

See, I told you they’d shift the goalposts to declare NDAA is still the end of freedom because it’s not called the No Indefinite Detentions Act. In fact, that’s what Jason Leopold and Marcy Wheeler are tweeting right now.

UPDATE 2: Wheeler on Twitter

My new observation is that O didn’t even forswear indefinite detention as a whole. That’s HIS words, not mine.

When Angry Black Lady asked her to clarify, she tweeted:

Very simpl. O could have said, “my Admin will not authorize the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens”

Um, isn’t that what he JUST SAID?

Wheeler also has a reaction post up and it’s a mind-boggling mess.

About Matt Osborne

Veteran blogging the culture wars from Alabama. Video journalist, mash-up artist, aspiring novelist, and metalhead. Expect bunnies, geekery, dark humor, and snarky empirical analysis to annoy idealists of all stripes. You can follow me on Twitter, but be ready 'cause it might get loud.
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