Saturday, December 31, 2011

They sign, they make statements

This is a kind of scoop: The president has signed the defense bill, and issued a "signing statement"  (full text here) listing which parts he doesn't like. Some details below the fold:
(Click image to enlarge)

  • The affirmation of the executive's right to detain non-citizens in line with the 2001Authorization to Use Military Force is unnecessary and stupid, but at least it doesn't "limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the AUMF".
  • BO wants "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."
  • The requirement that certain non-citizen detainees "captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the AUMF" have to be put under military custody is ill-conceived; he will put them under military custody when he thinks it makes sense and not otherwise.
  • The bar on funding the transfer of Guantánamo detainees into the US for any purpose is unwise, does not serve national security, and violates the constitution; restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries are just as bad, and BO will interpret both to "avoid the constitutional conflict", whatever that means.
  • The requirement that the attorney general has to get permission from (i.e., "consult with") the DNI and secretary of defense before charging a person covered under the AUMF is intrusive and offensive, and that's going to be interpreted too.
For what it's worth, it doesn't look too bad. The second point seems to argue that there is nothing illegal about indefinite detention without trial of Americans, it's just the wrong thing to do, which I feel is not what the Habeas Corpus provision exactly says, but would explain why nobody from the Bush administration is getting charged for it. Still, they're not going to be arresting Quakers or members of Code Pink.

Not a word about bombing American citizens to death without trial if they are saying obnoxious things in Yemen or closely related to someone who is doing so, but I guess they feel they've explained that one sufficiently already. The big takeaway, in any case, is that he recognizes these provisions as trying to force him to offer less due process to the "covered individuals" and remains determined to have more of it. For all its jumping around, his heart still tends to settle in the right place.

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