Obama Supports Defense Bill After Changes to Detainee Provisions

Dec 14, 2011 7:26pm

After threatening to veto a previous version of the bill, the White House today announced it now supports the National Defense Authorization Act following changes to detainee provisions.

According to the White House, the authors of the bill removed language that would have restricted the administration’s handling of terrorist detainees.

“As a result of these changes, we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the president’s senior advisors will not recommend a veto,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement.

An earlier version of the bill contained a provision that could have authorized the U.S. to indefinitely imprison suspected terrorists without a criminal charge or trial, including American citizens.

“While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counterterrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength,” Carney said.

“However, if in the process of implementing this law we determine that it will negatively impact our counterterrorism professionals and undercut our commitment to the rule of law, we expect that the authors of these provisions will work quickly and tirelessly to correct these problems,” he added.

Human rights groups are disappointed with the president’s decision to walk away from his veto threat.

“The president should more carefully consider the consequences of allowing this bill to become law,” Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office said. “If President Obama signs this bill, it will damage both his legacy and American’s reputation for upholding the rule of law. The last time Congress passed indefinite detention legislation was during the McCarthy era and President Truman had the courage to veto that bill. We hope that the president will consider the long view of history before codifying indefinite detention without charge or trial.”

The House is expected to pass the bill Wednesday and the Senate will vote soon after.

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