Congress, Obama Codify Indefinite Detention

Where is the "progressive" outrage?


In yet another reversal of his professed commitment to the rule of law, President Obama says he will sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which formalizes his authority to imprison terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge or trial.

Where is the "progressive" outrage?

George W. Bush and Obama both claimed that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) empowered them to have the military hold people merely suspected of association with al-Qaeda or related organizations without charge for the duration of the "war on terror." It didn't matter if the suspect was a foreigner, a U.S. citizen, or a legal resident. It also didn't matter if the alleged offense was committed inside or outside the United States. The battlefield encompassed the whole world.

In interpreting the AUMF this way, both administrations went well beyond its language. On its face, the AUMF only authorizes "the President … to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

Clearly the power is restricted to people involved in 9/11 and those who protected them. Yet under novel theories of the executive branch's constitutional authority, this was turned into a virtual blank check.

The AUMF also makes no reference to indefinite detention or to turning citizens and legal residents over to the military, rather than civilian law enforcement, when they are merely suspected of being involved in a vague class of activities such as "supporting" "associated forces" in the commission of belligerent acts.

Regardless of the absence of the relevant language, both the Bush and Obama administrations claimed these broad powers that make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights' Fifth Amendment in particular.

Now these powers have been formally set down on paper. Ironically, the Obama administration hinted at a veto of the bill because it introduced restrictions on its authority. Carrying on the Bush philosophy that under the Constitution the executive branch has virtually unlimited power, Obama objected to any congressional intrusion into its prerogatives, even if only to codify authority already claimed and exercised.

For example, one section requires the executive branch to turn over to the military a person suspected of terrorism. Note that this would even include individuals resisting the American occupation of Afghanistan or the bombing in Sudan or Somalia. It could also include someone who innocently gave money to a charity not knowing it had some connection to an "associated" organization. But the Obama administration did not like being required to do this. Rather, it prefers to have it as an option. In the end, the administration was granted the power to use civilian courts, but only after filing a waiver with Congress.

The section goes on to say that included within the military's authority is "detention under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities." This section, however, exempts Americans citizens captured inside the country.

The next section does apply to American citizens and other legal residents. Although it explicitly says the administration is not required to turn them over to the military, it may do so if it wishes. Obama successfully opposed a blanket prohibition in this section against the military detention of American citizens.

As one of its defenders, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said of the provision: "The statement of authority to detain does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland." This shouldn't be surprising: Obama already claims the authority to kill Americans without due process.

Obama's intention to sign the NDAA tells us exactly where he stands on the Bill of Rights. As Human Rights Watch put it: "President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law."

The late Chalmers Johnson, the scholar who did so much to chronicle America's world domination, liked to say that you either abolish the empire or live under it. Is there any doubt he was right?

Sheldon Richman is editor of The Freeman, where this article originally appeared.

NEXT: Gorby, in The Nation: "Is the World Really Safer Without the Soviet Union?"

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  1. Terrorists don’t deserve rights! If you think they do you’re probably a terrorist.

    1. Let’s just ship everybody who disagrees with indefinite detention without charge or trial to a military prison in Somalia. While all of those contemptible libertarians and Tea Partiers and republicans are locked up there, they can also reflect on ROOOOOOADZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!111111111111111

      1. Obama is just intensifying it.

        The US Gov’t already shipped anybody who disagrees with Gambol Lockdown to a prison camp like Reservation on the most marginal of land.

        You know.
        Exactly what it feels like.

        It didn’t turn out the way you wanted it. Did it?

        ~Nine Inch Nails, The Wretched

        1. What are you talking about? I was gamboling about the plains and forest just the other day. Hell, I even managed to do a little galavanting while I was at it. the only thing on lockdown is frolicing. But, hey, that’s for pussies.

          1. George Soros likes to gambol on white indians face.

    2. If only one life is saved, it will all have been worth it.

      1. Even just one fingernail from being broken is worth indefinite Gambol Lockdown.

  2. “Where is the “progressive” outrage?”

    Read my fucking blog! Please!

    You could also try Glenn Greenwald at Salon and the ACLU. The Democratic Party? Nuh-uh.

    1. It was the egalitarian thing for Obama to do, he couldn’t create a two tiered system where Americans have rights and everyone else on Earth was subject to detention and assasination by Americans. That would be elitist.

  3. “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”

    I yearn for an ancient facet of kings and emperors that, incidentally, would be apt in our times — titles of accomplishment, or titles denoting characteristics or definitive flaws.

    ‘Obama the Usurper’, ‘Obama the Eviscerator’, and ‘Obama the Vile Potentate’ are all suitable for our despot-in-chief.

    The visceral contempt I have for this animal is beyond description. If he gets run over by a bus, I’ll be the one yelling “sic semper tyrannis”.

    1. The manipulator of Mesopotamia
      The Sorrow of Quaddaffi
      The solicitor of Solyndra
      Subjugator of the insurance industry.

      1. The Shining Light of Paektu Mountain

        Oh wait, that was an honorific for Kim Jong Il. Ahh, what the hell, it works for Obama too.

    2. Please don’t insult us with comparisons to Obama. He’s your mess to deal with, not ours.

    3. You won’t be the only one. I did LOL though.

    4. Obama the Unready.

  4. He’s just keeping the tradition of Wilson and F.D.R alive,if their the wrong race or say the wrong thing off to prison.See,it is a progresive policy during ‘war time’.

    1. Woodrow Wilson imprisoned people for speech against his war. Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

      That’s what “progressives” do.

    2. ….they’re

      1. Thank you.

  5. penis + potato + ocean liner = dictatorship

    1. Heather Butthurt.

    2. ummmm…ok

  6. Where is the “progressive” outrage?

    Considering this law may eventually be used to round up political undesirables who’ve been branded terrorists by the SPLC, there’s a lot for progressives to love in the NDAA.

    1. Exactly, there was a period of time, in my more naive days when I had some level of respect for the SPLC. I thought it was just a group that studied racist groups and fought racism. But then I noticed they were attacking groups that I knew were NOT racist and it was a sort of slur by association racket they were doing.

    2. It is the epitome of what they love. They love raw power, the power to ‘do good’ as they define good. They believe they should have it and anyone who disagrees with them should STFU and get out of the way. Now they have the power to make their detractors STFU and put them out of the way. As sure as the sun comes up they are going to use it. How long until their political opponents are shipped off to the gulag? Not long.

      Any minute now Tony is going to show up here with obama’s spunk on his chin and start defending the NDAA and anything progressives might do under it.

      1. Any minute now Tony is going to show up here with obama’s spunk on his chin

        Stop it. You’re making me hungry again.

      2. Right before the messy chin incident….white indian had his way with the backside of tony

    3. I suggest the progressives meditate on the Iron Law:

      Me today, you tomorrow.

      1. Exactly. For people who call themselves “progressive,” they sure aren’t very forward-thinking.

        1. Hey! 1917 is right around the corner!

        2. At least it’s an ethos.

  7. To be fair, who here believes that any president of the last 50 years would NOT have signed this thing? This is just the machine grinding along as ever, regardless of who is in the WH.

    1. I believe that prior to baby Bush there would not have been a signer.

      1. I believe that prior to baby Bush there would not have been a signer.

        Of course, prior to Baby Bush, none of them had 9/11 as an excuse. If 9/11 had happened in, say, 1997 (or 1987, or 1977), we’d be living under the same law, plus whatever it would’ve mutated into, given the extra time.

        1. I used to wonder how the hell they came up with the PATRIOT act so fast after 9/11. A little research showed that most of the shit in that god damn thing was nothing more than the wish lists that various agencies had been trying to slip past the Courts and Congress for decades. Turns out that Uncle Sam’s magic word isn’t “please” but “terrorists”!

    2. I was just about to yell “Truman” and “Eisenhower” at you, then realized they’re not in the last 50 years…

    3. The point of the OP is what President of the last 50 years took such a strong and vocal stance against such a policy as it was implemented by his predecessor, only to turnabout and ratchet up those very same policies once gaining power himself?

      Regardless of where you may stand on this or any particular policy, the ever more brazen hypocrisy of the Messiah In Chief and his minions knows no bounds. His cheerleaders and apologists in the MSM and his party (as if there’s much of a difference) serve to enable but never question.

      1. Obama’s no fool. He knows that for the progressives, like the drug reform advocates at the recent annual Seattle pot-fest, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Democrats will always be seen as the “reformers” and the GOP will always be seen as the Bad Guys. He can do a 180 degree turnabout on their issues because he knows that when the election comes, they are in his pocket and will stay there.

        1. This is the saddest and most true statement going today. It goes to show how fucking ridiculous the idiots that hold that banner high really are.

    4. You’re probably right, but:

      1. We’ll never know for sure.
      2. Who the hell cares?

      What we do know is Obama will sign it, and that kind of cements his cred as a Fascist.

  8. Where is the “progressive” outrage?

    It’s okay when our team does it. You can trust the government to use its powers only for good, but only when our team is in office.

    1. How long before this is used to “disappear” political opponents?

      After all, if you oppose some proposal to go after the terrorists, then you must be a terrorist.


      1. wait, where’d he go?

  9. “””In yet another reversal of his professed commitment to the rule of law, President Obama says he will sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which formalizes his authority to imprison terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge or trial.”‘”

    He is committed to the rule of law, he changed the law and now he rules

  10. “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”

    I thought that was Woodrow Wilson. No wait …. I thought that was FDR …. no wait…..

    Hmmm, what do all of these Presidents have in common????

    1. They were all born in Kenya?

    2. They were all committed to sending US troops and money around the world to slay dragons while Ron Paul is a racist for not wanting to do that.

      1. Well said. Wanting a foreign policy like that of Switzerland is most certainly racist.

        1. We were the original Prussian Blue!

    3. They were all voted for by Reason staff and authors??

  11. Where is the “progressive” outrage?

    “Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm!”

  12. There’s no progressive outrage becasue this is a Team Blue effort. If this was a Team Red effort the progressives would be unhappy – becasue they didn’t get to it first.

    Progessives like this type of thing – government control of malcontents, no matter the stripe.

    1. “”There’s no progressive outrage becasue this is a Team Blue effort. “”

      Rule number one of partisan politics. Don’t hate your own team in public.

  13. Now that is exactly what I am talking about dude. Wow.

  14. To be fair, who here believes that any president of the last 50 years would NOT have signed this thing?

    Seriously, who’s the last one who wouldn’t? I’m not sure about Coolidge. He was the last president who wasn’t a monster, but he wasn’t reliably not-a-monster either.

    Franklin Pierce? He’s becoming historians’ consensus “worst president ever,” so he’s probably the only one who wouldn’t do it.

    A hundred and sixty years ago.

    President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.

    No he won’t. “History” isn’t a floating metaphysical entity; it’s a product historians produce, and it’s produced to order. If they say anything about this at all, they’ll say Bush made it happen, then not say who actually did it.

    1. Didn’t Truman veto something similar to this?

      1. Yeah, but he also attempted to nationalize the steel industry, so he is actually in some major ways more extreme than more recent vintage presidents.

    2. It would be hard to argue that bush didnt open the door.. That is what presidents do, open the door for the next guy’s even bigger power grab

      1. ^^^This^^^

  15. Where is the “progressive” outrage?

    They’re outraged at all the racist tearorrists that want to deny Obama this power.

    1. Obama, I think he’s a decent, patriotic American. He loves America different than me, but I don’t doubt he loves America.

      Ron Paul on the other hand, is so much an anathema to Republicans and Democrats and what I call middle of the road people. He has a core of fanatical believers, and they don’t represent mainstream Americans. It is not okay for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

      1. “Ron Paul on the other hand, is so much an anathema to Republicans and Democrats and what I call middle of the road people. He has a core of fanatical believers, and they don’t represent mainstream Americans.”
        That’s what makes him so right!

  16. So are we officially an imperial state yet?

    1. Have we won in Iran yet?

      1. First, we’ve got to stop the persecution in the Sudetenland.

    2. No. Not until we are wearing togas.

      1. You know the problem with togas? They can be concealing or revealing depending on how they are worn. In America, you can be sure that they will conceal the flesh you wish revealed and reveal the flesh you wish concealed.

        1. Modern togas will have all sorts of features, include built-in tablet computers.

          1. My kilt has a built-in hidden pocket for cell phones or small handguns.

  17. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    “All men”, not just U.S. citizens. “Endowed by their Creator”, not by the U.S. government. They are not terrorist unless they’ve been convicted of terrorism. They may not be entitled to the EXACT same “rules” as a U.S. citizen (for example, trial with 90 days), but they are entitled to those rights as human beings (i.e. trial within a “reasonable” amount of time. Given the extraordinary circumstances of trying to prosecute someone whom you picked up off a battlefield a half a world away, some additional time to put together evidence may be warranted. You might, for example, possibly have judicial review with 90 or 180 days to ensure that there is at least some valid reason to continue to detain, with more stringent requirements to detain at intervals beyond that. But not “indefinite”.)

    These new laws, would be created by Congress, that is their job. It is not to defer law making to the president. Civilian law may not be practical given the extraordinary circumstances described above. Military law is not appropriate given the lack of a legitimate “state” or “organization” to negotiate terms of release. A new set of laws should be enacted by Congress to deal with this situation. Laws that take account the unalienable rights of all men enshrined in our constitution, as well as the real threat posed by terrorism. Don’t’ hold your breath though. Congress would prefer to delegate that responsibility (and therefore any potential blame) to the outcome of pissing matches between the Executive and Judicial branches. What do we pay these guys for? Oh, that’s right, we pay them to redistribute our wealth to their key demographics and already wealth campaign contributors. I see these situation as much more the fault of an incompetent, worthless congress than anyone else including the president.

    1. They have changed a rule at Gitmo so no more client-lawyer privilged communications, which has cause a little backlash. But check out the comments. Sad that some of those people took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, yet they seem to have no understanding that the Constitution, well Bill of Rights, is largely restrictions on government. Not rights of the people per se.…..741&rank=3

  18. In a release sent late Tuesday, Perry’s campaign announced it has filed suit against the Republican Party of Virginia and the state board of elections in the Eastern District of Virginia over what the campaign claims is a ballot access statute that “limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.”

    Yeah…he’s all about the rules as long as they’re being applied to the little people, but God forbid he should be inconvenienced my the majesty of the law.

    Entitled little brat, aren’t you Mr. Perry?

    Of course, he has every reason to expect success in this: he watch the two major party go on the Texas ballet in 2008 on the strength of a special pleading.

  19. More…

    “Virginia ballot access rules are among the most onerous and are particularly problematic in a multi-candidate election,” Perry spokesperson Ray Sullivan said in a statement. “We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support.”

    but not modified so much that minor party are able to get on the ballot with any frequency, I’m sure.

    This is called being hoist on a petard that you have supported in the past.

    Suck it up, cry baby.

  20. Tell that to the lame GOP candidates who acts as though Obama has turned away from Bush’s Doctrine. If or when Ron Paul is out at least I’ll be free from the rhetoric showdown of 2012.

  21. Can we put this “where’s the progressive/conservative outrage” trope to rest?

    If the most liberal-leaning Democratic president electable won’t get behind a liberal/progressive cause — be it civil liberties or anything else — then the cause is lost. Progressives don’t have a more “progressive” alternative to Obama. Maybe they could throw themselve onto the pyre of Ron Paul or Ralph Nader, bu that’s about it: political suicide to make a point.

    Ditto for conservatives. When a right-wing Republican caves on a gun-control bill or agrees to jack up a farm subsidy, the cause is lost. Conservatives aren’t going to do the cause any better by supporting a more leftist candidate, or by throwing their vote down a Ron-Paul rathole.

    This is politics as it actually is, and if you want to win a cause, you have to create a defensible space for a politician to support that cause. The current political configuration gives Obama no real incentive to answer to “progressive outrage” on anti-terrorism. The only viable threat he faces is from Right-leaning paste-eaters like Willard Mitt Romney who want to “double Guantanamo.” Direct your “outrage” at that.

    1. “If the most liberal-leaning Democratic president electable won’t get behind a liberal/progressive cause — be it civil liberties or anything else –”

      Progressives hate civil liberties.

      1. Not as much as conservatives.

        Like I said: cause lost, any way you cut it.

    2. Aren’t you tired of carrying that big bucket of whitewash around?

  22. Sheldon, which progressive sources do *you* read? Because all the ones that *I* read – literally, every one of them – has expressed outrage about this. Enough with the needless straw-man BS, man.

      1. It’s Eli’s Couric moment of truth!

    1. “Because all the ones that *I* read – literally, every one of them – has expressed outrage about this.”

      I believe it when he loses the 2012 election.

  23. It’s Ok when the libs do it!

  24. It’s Ok when the libs do it!

  25. Is it too late for Barack to throw his hat in the ring to succeed Kim Jong-il?

  26. I wonder why Barack is waiting to sign the bill. He’s had multiple Friday nights, including one before a holiday weekend, to do it. He generally prefers extending the Patriot Act when as few people as possible are looking.

    I keep waiting for him to sign it so I can call him a Fascist on my FB page without any trace of doubt.

    OK, I’m petty. Whattaya gonna do, put me in jail for that?

    1. Since you obviously side with the terrorists, yes.

    2. I’m sure when he will signs it he will be sure to include a signing statement that makes it look as though he objects…Obama has the “rope a dope” rap down cold.

  27. Why would there be “progressive” outrage? It’s been cornerstone of the “progressive” world-view forever that the people are the property of the state to be disposed of according to will of our rulers.


  28. Evi is a practical, hands-on kind of girl. She works in a metal shop in a small German town and leads a simple and happy life. Evi is an animal lover and enjoys horse riding and training dogs in her free time.

    She is studying horse and dog psychology part-time and her ultimate hero is Monty Roberts author of the famous book The Horse Whisperer, she also loves listening to The Eagles. She tells us that her current boyfriend is 16; youthful and fun-loving, just like herself. Carefree and straightforward, Evi is plain speaking and will always speak her mind.

    She has dreamt of being a model since she was little and is a natural with her toned, tanned body, firm breasts and winning smile, although her own favourite body part is her pert ass. Evi believes that happiness is the key to a good life!

    1. I liked Almondine or whatever her name was yesterday.

    2. I’m not usually into blondes, but I will make an exception for this one.

      1. Good to hear that.

      2. Cant wait to get back to the states and check these girls out.

        Stupid Filters

  29. I realize that libertarians and others like to believe in some principles or others, but the people in government have figured out that there are only two kinds of people, the Ins and the Outs.

    Its better to be an IN than an OUT. There are no progressives outraged about this because their boy did it.

    To express outrage would end your invite to hang out with the cool kids. In Hollywood, maybe your script gets a gutting re-write and you drop from the credits. In DC, you don’t get that invite to the easter egg roll or the embassy party.

    The repubs do the same thing.

    Government has turned into Give rnment. We give our taxes and the IN crowd gives the money to their friends. The Out crowd whines about right vs wrong, and gets all indignant about whatever the IN crowd is doing.

    George W. Bush did more than ANY OTHER LEADER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD to combat HIV in Africa. In Africa, he is praised. Progressives in this country would sooner admit to being secret NRA members than admitting this.

    BH Obama stood up to the crazy left and kept our military at least somewhat functional. Will the repubs ever give him credit for this?

    No. Same as with GWB, the Outs got their talking points and their wedge issues to drive their base.

    The business of running the country is being handed over to unaccountable Mandarins who can pull the levers of power while the warlords feud over who gets to be emperor next.

    Our nation is in trouble. God, help us.

    1. “”Our nation is in trouble. God, help us.””

      Why would God help us? We voted these people into office. The only way he could help us not vote for these idiots would be to destroy us.

      Still want God’s help?

      1. He might inspire some of these morons to vote differently.

        He might smite the idiots while they are still going around trying to act like serious candidates.

        He is omnipotent and all knowing. Surely someone like that could figure out a “sniper” move that would get it done rather that destroy everything.

  30. The NDAA only goes to further stifle our Constitutional Rights without the approval of the Americans, just as the Patriot Act was adopted WITHOUT public approval or vote just weeks after the events of 9/11. A mere 3 criminal charges of terrorism a year are attributed to this act, which is mainly used for no-knock raids leading to drug-related arrests without proper cause for search and seizure. The laws are simply a means to spy on our own citizens and to detain and torture dissidents without trial or a right to council. You can read much more about living in this Orwellian society of fear and see my visual response to these measures on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot…..years.html

  31. At least the detention will be without charge. It’d be really galling to have to pay for it.

  32. I did see on Daily Kos where a diary was posted suggesting voting against Obama in the meaningless Iowa caucus to register a protest.

    In the comments the progressives were outraged by the idea. One does not diss the Jug-eared Jesus! So that’s where the progressive outrage is: against anybody who dares to question a Dem president. That’s some love of democracy, eh?

  33. Assuming you’re going to go peacefully, you’re better off being held by the military than civilian law enforcement. Who do you mistrust less, the United States Marines or your local police department?

    And let me dispose of the obvious counterargument. Abu Ghraib was run by National Guard troops. The ringleader of that incident learned his trade as a state prison guard. So much for the civilian legal system.

    Of course, there’s always the option of NOT going along peacefully – but it’s unwise to discuss such things in public.

  34. Progressive is a better name than Liberal because these people really have no use for Liberty. After it becomes obvious they really don’t want to go forward, they’ll find another new name.

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