Earlier this week, President Barack Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that keeps Guantanamo Bay open and indefinite detention of American citizens a prospect.
This year’s NDAA also authorizes funding for the war in Afghanistan, tightens sanctions against Iran, funds Special Forces and boosts security at diplomatic posts abroad in response to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September.
The President, in a signing statement, expressed regret for provisions keeping Guantanamo open.
“I continue to oppose this provision, which substitutes the Congress’s blanket political determination for careful and fact-based determinations, made by counterterrorism and law enforcement professionals, of when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees,” Obama wrote.
“This provision would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. In the event that these statutory restrictions operate in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles, my administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict,” he added.
While Congress added a provision, Sec. 1029, asserting that “any person inside the United States” is allowed his Constitutional rights, including habeas corpus as a fix for the indefinite detention provision, critics are less than impressed.
“Saying that new language somehow ensures the right to habeas corpus — the right to be presented before a judge — is both questionable and not enough. Citizens must not only be formally charged but also receive jury trials and the other protections our Constitution guarantees. Habeas corpus is simply the beginning of due process. It is by no means the whole,” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said.
The American Civil Liberties Union also criticized the Obama-approved bill.
“His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “He also has jeopardized his ability to close Guantanamo during his presidency. Scores of men who have already been held for nearly 11 years without being charged with a crime — including more than 80 who have been cleared for transfer — may very well be imprisoned unfairly for yet another year. The president should use whatever discretion he has in the law to order many of the detainees transferred home, and finally step up next year to close Guantanamo and bring a definite end to indefinite detention.”