It Ended Not with a Bang, But Indefinite Detention

[Content Note: Government-sanctioned injustice.]

On Dec. 31, Obama's final piece of presidenting for 2011 was a truly heinous stroke of his pen: He signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, thus codifying into law the asserted authority to indefinitely detain any person, anywhere in the world, whom the US government deems to be a threat to US security.

Originally, Obama threatened to veto any bill that contained such a measure, but then signed the legislation anyway, justifying the reversal with the usual weakspeak: "Ultimately, I decided to sign this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes, but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people."

It's some rich irony to rationalize indefinite detention with the rhetoric of liberty, especially considering that the provision gives the US government the right to indefinitely detain without trial or recourse "the American people" deemed to be enemies of the state, too.

The ACLU, who have vigorously objected to this assault on civil liberties and grave violation of international law, note: "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."

That is to say, President Obama recognizes the evident potential for abuse, but went ahead and signed it all the same. It's a power he wants—and he totes promises to use it in the GOOD way!—so who cares that a future president might use it to indefinitely imprison vocal ideological critics. Ha ha that could never happen!

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero calls Obama's signing of the National Defense Authorization Act into law "a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law. ... Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished."

Well. I can't add anything to that.

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