President Obama, after objecting to provisions of a military spending bill that would have forced him to try terrorism suspects in military courts and impose strict sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, signed the bill on Saturday.
He said that although he did not support all of it, changes made by Congress after negotiations with the White House had satisfied most of his concerns and given him enough latitude to manage foreign policy in keeping with administration policy.
”œThe fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” Mr. Obama said in a statement issued in Hawaii, where he is on vacation. ”œI have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
The bill authorizes $662 billion in military spending through 2012. It is a smaller amount than the Pentagon had asked for, but it does not impost the radical cuts that the military faces in coming years.
The White House had said the legislation could lead to an improper military role in overseeing detention and court proceedings, and could infringe on the president’s authority in dealing with suspected terrorists. But it said Mr. Obama could interpret the statute in a way that would preserve his authority.
Obama signs defense bill, pledges to maintain legal rights of terror suspects
Washington Post, By David Nakamura, December 31
HONOLULU ”” President Obama expressed misgivings about several provisions of a sweeping defense bill he signed into law Saturday, pledging that his administration will use broad discretion in interpreting the new legal requirements to ensure that U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism are not detained indefinitely by the military.
The $662 billion National Defense Authorization Act provides funding for 2012 at $27 billion less than Obama’s request and $43 billion less than Congress authorized in 2011.
The bill also contains several detainee provisions that civil liberties groups and human rights advocates have strongly opposed, arguing that they would allow the military greater authority to detain and interrogate U.S. citizens and non-citizens and deny them legal rights protected by the Constitution.
Obama had initially threatened to veto the legislation. In a signing statement released by the White House on Saturday, Obama said he still does not agree with everything contained in the legislation. But with military funding due to expire Monday, Obama said he signed the bill after Congress made last-minute revisions at the White House’s request before approving it two weeks ago.
Text of President Obama’s Signing Statement is available here [PDF]
Obama signs defense bill ‘with reservations’
CNN, December 31
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Saturday reluctantly signed a defense authorization bill, saying he was concerned about some in Congress who want to restrict options used by counterterrorism officials.
“I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” he said of the $662 billion legislation.
The White House had lifted a veto threat against the bill after legislators made changes in language involving detainees.
In particular, the legislators added language to make clear that nothing in the bill requiring military custody of al Qaeda suspects would interfere with the ability of civilian law enforcement to carry out terrorism investigations and interrogations in the United States.
The House approved the bill on December 14, and a 86-13 vote in the Senate the next day completed the necessary congressional action.
At issue was the president’s authority in deciding whether people detained in terrorism investigations would be held in military or civilian custody.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the legislation includes a “national security waiver” that allows the president to transfer a suspect from military to civilian custody if he chooses.
“I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” Obama said in a statement Saturday. “Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”
Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation. – “Traditions and values”? What about our laws, Mr. President?
Marcy Wheeler: Start Out the New Year with Indefinite Detention
Marcy Wheeler: The Worst Part of the Signing Statement: Section 1024