The Defense Authorization Act - Today's Q's for O's WH - 1/17/2012
TAPPER: I'm sorry if you've answered this in the past and I missed it. The National Defense Authorization Act. The president expressed concern about the provision that would allow the military to indefinitely detain an American citizen. last night at the debate, the Republican debate, not only did Ron Paul express a concern about that provision, but Rick Santorum, not known for being libertarian or liberal on these issues, said that he thought the way the law was before was more appropriate than this new law. Is President Obama doing anything to rescind this provision that gives the military this new power?
CARNEY: I appreciate the question. I have talked about it in the past. But as you know, we had concerns with the legislation as it was written. We worked with the authors of the legislation, and changes were made that allowed the president to sign the bill. And we have made clear, in the signing of the legislation and in our discussions afterwards, that the president retains the flexibility that he believes is essential for the commander in chief to make sure that our people in the field have all the tools necessary to do their job and that make sure that we are handling these matters in a way that are consistent with our values. So we will implement the law in a way that makes that achievable.
TAPPER: But that's a signing statement that says that "This is how we are interpreting the law." But the law is the military now has the power to indefinitely detain an American citizen if they suspect them of terrorism. And I understand that the president is going to interpret it his way. But he's not going to be the president forever. He might not even be the president in two years.
CARNEY: Well, I have no updates for you on - since the law was just passed and signed, on -
TAPPER: There's no effort -
CARNEY: Well, I would just say that we've made clear our concerns about it. We've made clear how we will approach implementation of it. And you know, how this is revisited, if it is revisited, remains to be seen. But at this moment I think the president has been very clear about the values he brings to it and his - the method - or rather, the approach he will take when the law is implemented.
TAPPER: But do you disagree with the way that civil liberties groups and Rick Santorum are interpreting the law? I mean, is it not -
CARNEY: Well, I would just refer you to the president's statement - signing statement about it.
TAPPER: But that's not a declaration of - I'm not talking about how he's going to implement it. I'm just talking about the law as it stands on the books.
CARNEY: Well, I understand that. And we've made clear what our position is on how it needs to be implemented in a way that's consistent with our values, in a way that - and in a way that maintains maximum flexibility for our operators in the field.
TAPPER: Well, let me just ask this final question: Are you comfortable with how any president in the future might interpret that law?
CARNEY: Well -
TAPPER: Is the president comfortable?
CARNEY: Again, you're - that's a hypothetical about the future. And in terms of how we will approach this issue in the future, I don't want to speculate. I can just point you to the way we have discussed it and the signing statement, as you mentioned, that the president used when he signed it into law.