It’s Official, the United States is a 21st Century Military Dictatorship (NYT 15/12/11)
Obama Drops Veto Threat Over Military Authorization Bill After Revisions
President Obama will not veto a military authorization bill that contains several disputed provisions about the treatment of terrorism prisoners, the White House announced Wednesday, signaling a likely end to a political battle over detainees and executive power.
The administration had threatened to veto versions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 passed by the House and the Senate, arguing that provisions would open the door for the military to perform policing functions inside the United States, and that they would infringe on executive branch powers.
But the White House said in a statement that adjustments made by a House-Senate conference committee had sufficiently addressed its concerns.
“As a result of these changes, we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the president’s senior advisors will not recommend a veto,” it said.
Civil liberties groups still object to the revised bill. But other critics of earlier versions — notably, Representative Adam Smith of Washington State, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee — praised the changes and urged that the bill be passed. On Wednesday, the House approved the bill, 283 to 136; it goes to the Senate.
The administration and Congress have been wrestling for months over proposed rules and limits for handling terrorism cases.
The bill that emerged from the conference committee on Tuesday dropped a section from the House version that would have banned using civilian courts to prosecute Qaeda suspects. It also dropped a House-written provision enacting a new authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda and its allies.
But the bill includes a narrower provision, drafted by the Senate, authorizing the government to detain, without trial, suspected members of Al Qaeda or its allies — or those who “substantially supported” them — bolstering the authorization it enacted a decade ago against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Another section would require officials to hold noncitizens suspected of being Qaeda operatives in military custody. The administration had focused its objections on that section, but the panel expanded the executive branch’s ability to make exceptions.
It also added language declaring that the new law would not restrict the existing authority of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in terrorism matters. Still, the bureau’s director, Robert S. Mueller III, testified on Wednesday that he remained concerned that it would introduce “uncertainty” about what should happen at the time of an arrest.
Another provision would require the attorney general to consult with military and intelligence agencies before charging a terrorism suspect in civilian court.
The bill also would require the defense secretary to certify, before transferring any Qaeda-related detainee to another country, that it has met certain security conditions — expanding a rule that currently applies only to prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But the bill would also relax the certification requirements, which the Pentagon has said are too onerous to meet.