Well, he did it again. Despite the fact that President Obama had vowed to veto the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without trial, the White House announced that the President will breach yet another promise and sign the controversial bill.
Jeremy Herb at The Hill reported on the administration’s concern that if Obama were to veto the bill, there might not have been enough votes in Congress to prevent an override of that veto. In other words: Obama was afraid of being embarrassed. The report noted the defensive language contained in the official White House spin, to the effect that some minor changes in wording were made to satisfy the President:
The White House backed down from its veto threat of the defense authorization bill Wednesday, saying that the bill’s updated language would not constrain the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts.
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The administration won some changes in conference committee, which wrapped up Monday, including the addition of a clause stating that FBI and local law enforcement counterterrorism activities would not be altered by the law.
Big deal. Let the outrage begin! At the Huffington Post, Michael McAuliff noted that the President had already decided to back down on his veto threat before the House of Representatives passed the bill:
The switch came just before the House voted 283-136 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act despite impassioned opposition that crossed party lines, with Democrats splitting on the bill and more than 40 Republicans opposing it. Numerous national security experts and civil liberties advocates had argued that the indefinite detention measure enshrines recent, questionable investigative practices that are contrary to fundamental American rights.
At the Human Rights Watch website, no punches were pulled in their criticism of Obama’s latest betrayal of those very principles his supporters expected him to advance:
The Obama administration had threatened to veto the bill, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), over detainee provisions, but on December 14, 2011, issued a statement indicating the president would likely sign the legislation.
“By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”
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The far-reaching detainee provisions would codify indefinite detention without trial into US law for the first time since the McCarthy era when Congress in 1950 overrode the veto of then-President Harry Truman and passed the Internal Security Act.
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“It is a sad moment when a president who has prided himself on his knowledge of and belief in constitutional principles succumbs to the politics of the moment to sign a bill that poses so great a threat to basic constitutional rights,” Roth said.
Many people might not know that quantitative equity research analyst and former hedge fund manager, Barry Ritholtz (author of Bailout Nation) is an alumnus of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, where he served on the Law Review, and graduated Cum Laude with a 3.56 GPA. Here are some of the recent comments made by Mr. Ritholtz concerning the National Defense Authorization Act:
While this is shocking, it is not occurring in a vacuum. Indeed, it is part of a 30 year-long process of militarization inside our borders and a destruction of the American concepts of limited government and separation of powers.
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Other Encroachments On Civil Rights Under Obama
As bad as Bush was, the truth is that, in many ways, freedom and constitutional rights are under attack even more than during the Bush years.
Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history – even more so than Nixon.
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And as I pointed out last year:
An FBI memo also labels peace protesters as “terrorists”.
At his blog, The Big Picture, Ritholtz made these points in a December 3 argument against the passage of this bill:
You might assume – in a vacuum – that this might be okay (even though it trashes the Constitution, the separation of military and police actions, and the division between internal and external affairs).
But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food. And see this.
Once again, President Obama has breached a promise to his supporters out of fear that he could be embarrassed in a showdown with Congress. Worse yet, Obama has acted to subvert the Constitutional right of Due Process simply because he wants to avoid the shame of a veto override. As many commentators have observed, George W. Bush was not plagued by any such weakness and he went on to push a good number of controversial initiatives through Congress – most notably the Iraq War Resolution. I find it surprising that so many of President Obama’s important decisions have been motivated by a fear of embarrassment, while at the same time he has exhibited no concern about exposing such timidity to both his allies and his opponents – wherever they may be.