Obama signs controversial defense bill into law

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Saturday signed [statement] the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA) [SB 1867, pdf] into law despite having reservations over certain provisions in the bill. The contentious legislation contains a clause that allows the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to detain persons suspected of terrorism. Obama stated that while he supports the bill as a whole, he does not agree with everything in it, specifically the provisions regulating the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Obama indicated that his administration's success against al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] and affiliated terrorist organizations was based on flexibility which allows counterterrorism professionals to adapt to changing circumstances and utilize a broad range of practices to protect the American public. According to Obama, his administration will interpret and implement the controversial provisions in a manner which will provide the maximum measure of flexibility. Specifically, Obama noted that his administration will interpret the section requiring military custody for a narrow category of non-citizen detainees as allowing the executive branch to waive the military custody requirement when it would be in the best interest of national security. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] vigorously chastised the President [statement] stating that the statute is dangerous due to its lack of temporal or geographic limitations, and due to the fact that it could be used in the future to detain individuals captured "far from any battlefield."

Both houses of Congress reached an agreement [JURIST report] on the language of the NDAA's most controversial sections in mid-December. Earlier in December, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) [official website] unanimously approved [JURIST report] a provision in the NDAA that gives the military complete control and custody over terror suspects. Shortly before the SASC's decision, the ACLU issued a 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]. To support this contention, the report cites to US policies regarding indefinite military detention for terrorism suspects, the use of torture on terrorism suspects and enemy combatants, racial and religious profiling and domestic surveillance and wiretapping.

 

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