On Wednesday, January 2, 2013, President Barack Obama did what constitutionalists and civil libertarians knew he would do: He signed into law the renewal of his power to apprehend and detain Americans indefinitely on no more authority than his own suspicion of their complicity with enemies in the “War on Terror.”
With more of a whimper than a bang, the president signed the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As he did on New Year’s Eve 2011 when he signed last year’s version of the NDAA, President Obama appended a signing statement to the act. This time, however, there were no promises of protecting Americans from deprivations of due process. This time, the signing statement (I would agree with Benjamin Wittes of the Lawfare blog who suggests it is more of a “whining” statement) recounts all the reasons the president had for vetoing the bill. Somehow, however, he managed to hold his nose and sign this unconstitutional, no longer unprecedented, giant leap toward statism, absolutism, and outright unapologetic tyranny.
Although President Obama warned months ago that he would veto the $636-billion defense spending bill if it contained any restrictions on his ability to shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (a 2008 campaign promise), he apparently decided that compared to the power to kidnap and lock up Americans according to his own whim was sufficient exchange for being “forced” to keep Gitmo going.
Leaders of human rights organizations — many of whom were counted among the winning Obama coalition in 2008 — admitted disappointment at the failure of the president to deliver the hope and change he promised.
"It's not encouraging that the President continues to be willing to tie his own hands when it comes to closing Guantanamo," said Dixon Osburn of Human Rights First. "The injustice of Guantanamo continues to serve as a stain on American global leadership on human rights."
Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA said that "solutions for ending human rights violations, not excuses, must be found."
"This law makes it harder for the President to fulfill his promise to close the Guantanamo detention facility, perpetuating a grave injustice against the detainees held without charge or fair trial," Jannuzi added.
Fair trials are likely to soon be placed on the federally-protected endangered species list.
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Photo of Guantamo cell block: AP Images