White House withdraws threat to veto defense bill

[JURIST] The White House on Wednesday announced that President Barack Obama [official website] no longer intends to veto the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 [SB 1867, PDF]. The about face comes after revisions by lawmakers that address the concerns of the Obama administration related to the treatment of terror suspects. The administration had threatened to veto the legislation [JURIST report] because it would require military rather than civilian detention of terror suspects. The revised version of the bill [JURIST report], released by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees [official websites] on Monday, gives the administration more discretion over the laws implementation and grants waiver authority to the president. White House press secretary Jay Carney said that because of the changes, "we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the President's ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the President's senior advisors will not recommend a veto." The bill passed in the House of Representatives [official website] with a vote of 283 to 136 [roll call]. The bill is expected to pass in the Senate [official website] sometime Thursday.

The news marks the end of the contentious debate surrounding passage of the annual defense spending bill. The version of the bill containing the controversial terrorism provision passed in the Senate [JURIST report] early this month. Also this month, the Senate rejected an amendment to the bill [JURIST report] that would have struck a provision authorizing the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to detain individuals suspected of terrorism and instituted a timeline to allow further study and investigation on the issue of counterterrorism by Congress. The terrorism provision was approved [JURIST report] earlier this month by the Senate Armed Services Committee in a unanimous vote after disagreements regarding the provision had blocked their passage for months [CNN report]. The passage by the Committee came shortly after an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] report [PDF] claiming that the US is diminishing its "core values" [JURIST report] with regard to various counterterrorism measures put in place during the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks [JURIST backgrounder].

 

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