If you thought President Obama would stand up for civil liberties during his second term, you were wrong. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens. However, in a signing statement, President Obama complained about the legislation, then attempted to assure us all that he has no intentions of ever detaining American citizens:
“I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” Obama wrote. “Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.”
What the president did was basically give us his word that he’s not going to use the law, but the American Civil Liberties Union says Obama’s word is not enough.
“President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day.” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement. “His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.”
What President Obama surely understands is that he is setting a precedent for those who occupy the White House long after he is gone. Now that he’s signed NDAA bills which include language authorizing the indefinite detention of Americans, it is more likely that this law will be signed by future presidents as well.
In November, Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced an amendment to the 2013 NDAA which would ban the military from indefinitely detaining citizens without trial. The bill made it through the Senate by a vote of 67-29, but the conference committee removed it from the bill.