On Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013, sparking a firestorm of liberal outrage.
At issue is the bill’s language to keep Guantanamo Bay open, provisions that Mr. Obama previously threatened to veto. The bill also includes language that may permit the indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist activities.
“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. “His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended. He also has jeopardized his ability to close Guantanamo during his presidency.”
The Center For Constitutional Rights joined the chorus of condemnation: “For the second year in a row, President Obama has caved on his threat to veto this dangerous legislation, which severely restricts his ability to transfer or provide fair trials for the 166 men who remain imprisoned at Guantanamo….Once again, Obama has failed to lead on Guantanamo and surrendered closure issues to his political opponents in Congress. In one fell swoop, he has belied his recent lip-service about a continued commitment to closing Guantanamo.”
And executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee Shahid Buttar blasted Mr. Obama for failing to make good on his promises: “It’s the second time that the president has promised to veto a piece of a very controversial national security legislation only to sign it. He has a habit of promising resistance to national security initiatives that he ultimately ends up supporting and enabling.”
In a White House statement, Mr. Obama said that his decision to sign the NDAA should not be viewed as support for all the bill’s provisions.
“Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all.”
Specifically, Mr. Obama said that certain sections of the NDAA “raise constitutional concerns” and that Congress included language in the bill that would “foreclose my ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”
Mr. Obama said he still believes “that operating the facility [Guantanamo] weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies.”
During his 2008 bid for the White House, Mr. Obama made numerous promises to close Guantanamo. In November 2008, Mr. Obama told CBS News reporter Steve Kroft: “I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that.”
Guantanamo remains open.