On December 31, 2011 (Talk about burying news!), President Obama signed the so-called “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2012.” The bill contains two provisions, 1021 and 1022 that codify lifetime military detention without charge or trial. It is bad enough for me that such provisions apply to anybody at all. While President Obama and the Congressional leadership say that these provisions won’t apply to American citizens, people from far-right Republican US Rep Justin Amash to ACLU blogger Amanda Simon insist that it will. At best, the law is ambiguous because one section exempts US citizens and the other does not. Their validity will be probably be challenged in court. But to the extent that it purports to strip ANYONE of their GOD-GIVEN right to life and liberty without the due process of charges and a trial, it is an unjust law.
I’m disappointed and angry that President Obama signed this law. I’m more disappointed and angry that he attached a President GW Bush style “signing statement” indicating the parts of the law he feels free to ignore or to interpret differently from Congress. This was not a right of the Presidency under Bush and it still isn’t under Obama. Even though his written intentions are in areas I favor, that doesn’t make the signing statement Constitutional. He should have signed it with intention of carrying it through, submitted the law to a court challenge or veto the bill despite its other, possibly more beneficial effects.
This isn’t the first time that President Obama has issued this style of signing statement. Taking actions against civil liberties and issuing unconstitutional signing statements were two things I wrote about often during the Bush Administration. Yet I just don’t seem to be as publicly on top of the Obama Administration’s attacks on civil liberties.
I’ve thought about why this is. It’s not because I think the President is doing a great job overall. While I still would NOT change my vote to McCain/Palin or any other 2008 candidate, I’m disappointed by the President’s performance in most areas except gay rights where I think he has done well and in the area of the economy. There are two factors why I don’t blame the President for our economy:
- I’m just not convinced that any government can improve or destroy an economy as large as ours. It’s like an ant trying to steer an elephant, regardless of who is President.
- Even if #1 weren’t true the President has been blocked by Congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats by implementing his full program. You can’t blame somebody until you have given them the ability to solve a problem their way.
I’ve thought about it a lot and I think the main reason that I don’t continue to loudly condemn the rise of the security state is that from 2002-2008, there was hope that the so-called opposition party would change this country’s course. If we pointed out the Bush and Republican abuses to liberty and elected Democrats to Congress and the Presidency, we could get the government out of the business of mass surveillance, indefinite detentions in foreign locations and bring about accountability for torture. I volunteered a lot of hours for President Obama in the 2008 campaign to make this happen.
Now, if President Obama were to be a one-term President and we elected the Republican candidate, we would get a return to waterboarding and other forms of torture and the secret arrest and detention without charge or trial would be publicly embraced. That’s not change I can believe in, as bad as things have deteriorated so far.
So, if you have wondered why I’ve gone silent, it’s out of feeling that we’ve tried all brakes on the car of the State and none of them work. At the moment I’m half-heartedly supporting former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson in his Libertarian bid for the Presidency. He’s got great stands on civil liberties, marriage equality and understands that we can’t shoot our way out of problems. If he gets the Libertarian nomination, he will be on the ballot in all 50 states.
I’ve sent his campaign money, but I don’t support his budget and tax policies at all. Plus it seems like there’s a consensus among Americans that the National Security state is just fine as long as they’re not personally carted off by it or if it confines its worst abuses to non-citizens.
On the other hand, it’s a long time till November and I reserve the right to change my mind depending on events of the campaign.
Open Congress Page for HR 1540 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h1540/show)
Administration of Barack Obama, 2011
Statement on Signing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012
December 31, 2011
The Truth About the New Detainee Policy in the NDAA by Rep. Justin Amash
President Obama Signs Indefinite Detention Into Law by Amanda Simon, ACLU
Waterboarding Produces Another Romney Flip-Flop?
By Beth Reinhard
National Journal November 14, 2011
John McCain ‘very disappointed’ with waterboarding support at GOP debate
By Chris McGreal
Guardian (UK) November 14, 2011