Obama Flips on Indefinite Detention of Americans

In a recent discussion about the provision in the new defense authorization bill that allows indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay even for American citizens arrested on U.S. soil, someone expressed hope because Obama had threatened to veto the bill if it included that provision. I told them there was no way in hell Obama would follow through on that threat — and I was right.

Barack Obama has abandoned a commitment to veto a new security law that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay.

Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing. The legislation has also been strongly criticised by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of “a war that appears to have no end”.

The law, contained in the defence authorisation bill that funds the US military, effectively extends the battlefield in the “war on terror” to the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention…

“It’s something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration,” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. “It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent.”

If that surprises you in the least, you haven’t been paying attention. I’ll say it again: When it comes to civil liberties and the rule of law, Obama hasn’t just been a disappointment — he’s been an absolute disaster.

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  • unbound

    “Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles…” that made me laugh even before I got to Ed’s closing comments.

    Now you are accusing the president of deserting his principles? About 3 years late to the party…

    The really annoying part about all of this is that in one year Obama will still likely get my vote due to the lesser of evils principle.

  • plutosdad

    I was under the impression that Obama was never against this. What he was against was Congress forcing him to not be able to decide whether to treat a prisoner as a criminal or not. He never suggested he didn’t have the right to indefinitely hold whoever he wanted, he just doesn’t want to be forced to.

  • unbound — human rights groups have been saying that about Obama from the very start, as I have. This is merely the latest reason to do so.

  • regexp

    Wait – I thought the final language changed from the original? Unfortunately doing a google search on what I read a couple of days ago yields just hundreds of hits of rhetoric and serious discussion.

    (not a huge fan of the guardians reporting)

  • naturalcynic

    “It’s something so radical that it would have been considered crazy a great idea, but too difficult to try to implement had it been pushed by the Bush administration,” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch.


  • gshelley

    From what I read, plutosdad is right, Obama’s objection wasn’t that it was wrong to indefinitely hold Americans, but that it wasn’t him getting to make the decision and that he didn’t get the choice between civilian and military trials.

  • Today my dad and I were talking politics, generally venting our complaints, and I brought up the lack of mainstream criticism for Obama expanding the abuses of the Bush Administration.

    “Yeah, I was reading about that this morning.” (Walks toward his laptop)

    “Oh, no, what’d he do now?”

    And here I am.

  • I’m not at all happy with a lot of what Mr. Obama is doing. Otoh, was there ever a chance that the bill this piece of shit was attached too would get out of the house for a senate vote, without that change.

    I don’t think there’s enough principle in the entire congress to fill one used car salesman, but, wtf is he supposed to do? Take a “principled” stand and lose the entire bill.

    It’s not that I’m sanguine about the prospects that prisoners will be abused, as they have been; it’s just that I don’t think his own party will stand up for him on this. The congress got itself teabagged at the mid-terms because they refused to play, “fuck you” with the retardlicans.

    Piss and moan all you like folks, unless there’s a miracle there won’t be a better candidate than Obama in 2012.

  • abb3w

    It’s a bit of a pity he doesn’t have enough of a sense of humor to promptly use it on the congresscritters who voted for the bill.

  • shygetz

    Oddly enough, I read something completely different:


    “So it’s simply not true, as the Guardian wrote yesterday, that the the bill “allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay.” When the New York Times editorial page writes that the bill would “strip the F.B.I., federal prosecutors and federal courts of all or most of their power to arrest and prosecute terrorists and hand it off to the military,” or that the “legislation could also give future presidents the authority to throw American citizens into prison for life without charges or a trial,” they’re simply wrong.

    The language in the bill that relates to the detention authority as far as US citizens and permanent residents are concerned is, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.””

    So who is right? I’d appreciate it if Ed would do some checking and follow up on this.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Well, Obama could immediately order Rush Limbaugh off to Gitmo as a test just to see if the law would hold up. At least that would win him some votes in Nov.

  • bsidler
  • sqlrob


    Read “Myth 3” here

  • Nemo

    Sometimes it sucks to be right, eh?