Are Civil Liberties Now At the Discretion Of A President

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Many on the right and on the left are arguing that the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides funding for 2012, contains provisions that put the civil liberties of Americans at the discretion of a Presidency. The majority of Americans in the middle just seem to be disengaged from the debate or from the potential slippery slope the legislation offers. 

President Obama had previously said he would veto the legislation, but instead issued a signing statement saying he does not agree, in essence, with what he is signing.

The use of signing statements to avoid enforcing a law, a procedure greatly expanded by the Bush Administration, seems illegal to many and calls into question what subsequent administrations might do with the legislative power that a previous President declined to enforce. A President has the responsibility to veto any legislation that he deems to be not in the best interest of the public.

While being a complicated piece of legislation, the original draft seemed to say that the President had no discretion in sending suspects to civilian courts. Apparently the negotiated "now-acceptable" language (for the Obama Administration) will give Presidents the discretion rather than the obligation to send suspects to a civilian court. This obligation would seem, to most, to be a basic right under the US Constitution.


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Complicated and unclear legislation begs future interpretations of that legislation and can often lead to abuse of power.

Obama signs defense bill, pledges to maintain legal rights of U.S. citizens

Washington Post

President Obama expressed misgivings about several provisions of a sweeping defense bill he signed into law on Saturday, pledging that his administration will use broad discretion in interpreting the measure’s legal requirements to ensure that U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism are not detained indefinitely by the military.

The bill also contains several detainee provisions that civil liberties groups and human rights advocates have strongly opposed, arguing that they would allow the military greater authority to detain and interrogate U.S. citizens and non-citizens and deny them legal rights protected by the Constitution.

Read the entire article

Obama Signs Defense Bill Despite 'Reservations'

Fox News

In a statement accompanying his signature, the president chastised some lawmakers for what he contended was their attempts to use the bill to restrict the ability of counterterrorism officials to protect the country.

Administration officials said Obama was only signing the measure because Congress made minimally acceptable changes that no longer challenged the president's terrorism-fighting ability.

Obama signs defense bill -- with objections

Politico
 
But the ACLU is not satisfied, seeing Obama’s signature as a formalization of indefinite detainment. His action Saturday is “a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said in a statement. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today.”
 
 

Rachel Maddow's Take On This Controversial Bill

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