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Obama signs Pentagon bill maintaining Guantanamo and military detention

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  • Romi Elnagar
    Obama signs Pentagon bill maintaining Guantanamo and military detention By Bill Van Auken 5 January 2013 For the second year in a row, President Barack Obama
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2013
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      Obama signs Pentagon bill maintaining Guantanamo and military detention
      By Bill Van Auken
      5 January 2013
      For the second year in a row, President Barack Obama has signed
      into law a Pentagon funding bill that allows for the indefinite military detention of anyone, including American citizens, without charges,
      while barring the shutdown of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
      signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 Wednesday puts paid to the predictions by the administration’s liberal and pseudo-left supporters that Obama, freed of re-election concerns, would pursue a
      more “progressive” political course in his second term. As in 2012, this legislation enshrines a sweeping assault on core constitutional
      principles and democratic rights.
      The legislation’s provisions
      underscore the link between the eruption of American militarism abroad
      and the lurch toward police-state measures at home.
      It provides
      $633 billion for Washington’s worldwide military operations, including
      $88.5 billion for overseas “contingency operations,” the bulk of it
      going to fund the continuing war and occupation in Afghanistan. It
      increases funding for the military’s Special Operations Command
      (USSOCOM) to $10.5 billion in preparation for new interventions across
      the planet.
      And it includes provisions demanding the acceleration
      of preparations for US wars, including new punishing economic sanctions
      against Iran and a mandate for the US to make “visible” preparations for war against the country. In relation to the US-fomented sectarian civil war in Syria, the new law demands that the President submit plans for
      the implementation of a “no-fly” zone, which would require a full-scale
      US-NATO military intervention, as in Libya in 2011.
      Also included
      in this year’s act is an amendment that effectively overturns the
      Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. This is Cold War era legislation that barred
      the US government from disseminating propaganda aimed at the American
      Just as with the 2012 NDAA, Obama had threatened, as
      recently as November, to veto the Pentagon funding act over restrictions that effectively bar any move to close down the infamous US prison and
      torture center at Guantanamo or transfer its inmates to the US for trial or any other reason. And, just as last year, the US president backed
      off of this threat, implementing policies drafted by the Republican
      The shutdown of Guantanamo within one year was Obama’s key
      promise formally promulgated on his first day in the White House. Four
      years later, 166 detainees remain imprisoned there, the vast majority of them for a decade without having been accused of any crime, much less
      brought to trial.
      While as a candidate Obama had criticized his
      predecessor, George W. Bush, for routinely issuing “signing statements”
      that declared his objections to bills that he signed into law, rather
      than vetoing them, he did precisely that in relation to the 2013 NDAA.
      Obama’s signing statement stressed that he was enacting the bill because of his determination to “ensure that the United States will continue to have
      the strongest military in the world” overrode any of his objections.
      As to the character of these objections, all of them centered on aspects
      of the legislation perceived as infringements on the unfettered
      executive power of the president as “commander-in-chief.”
      the specific objections was the legislation’s “unwarranted restrictions
      on the executive branch’s authority to transfer detainees to a foreign
      country,” which could potentially hinder the administration’s continuing use of “rendition” to abduct and secretly imprison alleged terrorist
      suspects in foreign jails for protracted interrogation.
      Obama also voiced opposition to a section of the law that provides whistle-blower
      protections for employees of outside military contractors who provide
      information revealing Pentagon abuses, mismanagement and corruption.
      Reiterating his administration’s extreme defense of state secrecy, Obama wrote that he would ensure that no such revelations would compromise
      “information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential.”
      Significantly, absent from this year’s signing statement was a hypocritical clause
      inserted last year expressing reservations about the NDAA’s sweeping
      provisions for military detention without charges or trial.
      Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention
      without trial of American citizens,” Obama wrote last year. “Indeed, I
      believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.”
      In signing the 2012 NDAA, he also claimed he had “worked tirelessly to reform or remove” the provisions he opposed.
      This year, he remained silent on any commitment to these “traditions and
      values” and on the entire subject of future military detention. There
      was also no claim that he had fought tirelessly or otherwise to have
      offending provisions removed. Clearly, the language inserted last year
      in an attempt to mollify liberal and “left” supporters in advance of the 2012 presidential election was seen as no longer necessary.
      anything, this year’s legislation has clarified even further the scale
      of the assault on democratic rights that has been signed into law.
      In a closed-door meeting of Senate and House conferees, an amendment
      unanimously passed by the Senate providing limited protections to US
      citizens and permanent residents against indefinite military detention
      was stripped from the legislation without explanation. The amendment
      applied only to such citizens and residents abducted within the US, not
      to those grabbed overseas. It also left open that such detentions would
      be permissible given the possibility of a trial before a drum-head
      military tribunal and provides that an Act of Congress would be
      sufficient to abrogate the Constitution and the age-old right of habeas corpus, allowing the US military to arrest and effectively “disappear” US citizens within the US itself.
      Nonetheless, even this amendment was ultimately ruled as overly restrictive on the use of military detention.
      The vague and expansive language of the law enacted by Obama now permits
      the military to secretly grab virtually anyone deemed by the president
      to be an “enemy of the state” and throw them into Guantanamo or any
      other military prison to be held indefinitely without charges or trial.
      It allows indefinite military detention to be employed against anyone,
      including US citizens, on the basis of unproven and secret charges that
      they have provided support to al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated
      forces,” committed a “belligerent act” or given “aid” to “enemy forces.”
      With none of these terms defined, indefinite detention could be justified in cases ranging from antiwar protesters to journalists whose writings are deemed unduly sympathetic to Washington’s many enemies. Workers on
      strike could be accused of committing a “belligerent act,” as could
      someone viewed as overly critical of the US government.
      What is
      involved here is not, as Obama’s liberal critics would have it, merely
      political cowardice or a “failure to lead.” As president, Obama has
      “led” in the direction demanded by America’s ruling financial
      aristocracy and the military-intelligence complex. He has continued and
      deepened the crimes of the Bush administration, creating an apparatus of state assassinations as a virtual fourth branch of the US government.
      It is not an accident that the president enacts legislation enshrining
      military detention without charges in law as his administration and the
      Congress prepare to make the working class pay for the economic crisis
      through savage cuts to social programs and a historic reduction in
      living standards. The ruling class anticipates social upheavals and is
      preparing accordingly.


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