New National Defense Authorization Act, old NDAA, and Waffler-in-Chief Obama on the issue of indefinite detention

Rights Detained/Man behind bars superimposed over ConstitutionBreaking news re: the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that President Obama signed under cover of the New Year festivities in hopes that a hungover populace would maybe not notice. This might just put a wrinkle in the 2013 NDAA that goes up for a vote in the House today (Thursday, May 17, 2012).

“The government was given a number of opportunities at the hearing and in its briefs to state unambiguously that the type of expressive and associational activities engaged in by plaintiffs — or others — are not within Section 1021,” Forrest said. “It did not. This court therefore must credit the chilling impact on First Amendment rights as reasonable — and real.”

That’s funny. First a whole slew of politicians and a wide swath of press fall all over themselves saying “oh, of course this doesn’t mean you can be detained indefinitely without due process” (with a very notable exception coming from Glenn Greenwald). Lindsay Graham actually came the closest to speaking power to truth on the matter when he all but said, “Fuck Americans. America! Fuck yeah!” The sole relevant amendment that actually made it into the bill punted the matter to the courts to decide. President Obama signed it with his signing statement pen, essentially promising, “I’ll never use this for evil,” while allowing for future presidents to do just that.

Well, the court fair caught the ball and called a time-out. For an administration that so many on the left (hold up your hands, palms outward, with your thumbs out…the one that makes the L is on your left, just in case you forget where it really is) just swear is wonderful, why, just look at all the great things O has done for us!…for an administration that claims it won’t use the vague verbiage in 1021 or elsewhere to our detriment, for an administration that basically thinks we should just trust it while it assassinates US citizens and goes on an extra-judicial drone-powered killing spree and violates the national sovereignty of an ally to kill the all but useless bin Laden (instead of going after the operational evil genius Zawahiri) and assures us that due process doesn’t actually have to mean judicial due process (just a bunch of guys in a back room playing craps with your life and rights will do)…for THIS administration to not take advantage of this particular case to make a clear and compelling argument as to what would not be sufficient for it to break its solemn signing statement (and maybe a few bones and a few international rules about human rights) is damning, at best.

There’s less than six months to go before “America” (or someone going by that name) decides who will be the next Champion of Wall Street, Mr. President. Now might be a really good time to further distinguish yourself from the Rabid Right when it comes to little matters of civil liberties. A veto threat for the new NDAA to help coax DINO Levin back toward an authentic left would be a good start. Of course, doing so would just be political theatre since there’s no guarantee you’ll be sitting in the Oval Office to sign it or veto it one way or the other. In other words, it’s a safe bet. Besides, even if you threaten the veto it’s not like you have to use it. After all, what’s a little campaign promise but a trifle to be broken?

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Image credit: Adapted from image of the Constitution of the United States of America (in the public domain) and Hands Behind Prison Bars Vector Art by Vectorportal, licensed under Creative Commons.

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