In a surprising move today by President Obama, the White House issued a statement supporting the controversial National Defense Authorization Act. In an earlier blog post, we highlighted some of the more controversial provisions of the Act. In short, critics fear this law oversteps the bounds separating government power and civil liberties. One of the main provisions authorizes the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely detain alleged Al Qaeda members or other terrorist operatives captured on U.S. soil.
The news comes as quite a shock to many people due to President Obama's recent assurance that he would veto the NDAA when it fell on his desk. The reasoning behind the "change of heart," according to CBS News, was because the military mandate in the final version of the act had been "softened." The statement issued by the White House said in part,
"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."
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch states, "By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law. In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side."
Even FBI Director Robert Mueller opposes the Act because of the restraints it puts on the federal government's ability to investigate and prevent terrorism. He said this when he expressed his concern, "My concern is that you don't want FBI agents and the military showing up at the same time, with some uncertainty as to who is in control."
This news will no doubt cause controversy for President Obama in his upcoming bid for reelection. What is more important, however, is the effect it will have on the civil liberties of U.S. citizens in the future. Unfortunately, only time will tell.