Will Obama send U.S. citizens to Guantanamo? Outrage as President signs off law to detain home-grown terror suspects indefinitely
Posted by Admin on December 21, 2011
- Drops his threat of a veto against the defence bill even though he didn’t like certain controversial provisions
- Now American citizens can be arrested within the U.S. and sent to Guantanamo if they’re linked to Al Queda or Taliban
- Senate voted 86-13 to pass the massive $662billion defence bill
Last updated at 2:00 PM on 16th December 2011
President Barack Obama faced a civil liberties backlash today after he signed a law that will allow terror suspects to be held indefinitely- even raising the prospects of U.S. citizens being sent to Guantanamo Bay.
The controversial move, revealed last night, effectively extends the laws of the battlefield to American soil.
The move shows a clear hardening of Mr Obama’s anti-terror policies, and a major shift from the liberal stance that helped him sweep into power three years ago.
Under fire: President Obama is expected to sign the defence authorization bill, in spite of stipulations that allow prisoners to be held indefinitely
After campaigning heavily on the need to close the controversial terrorist detention base at Guantanamo Bay, he failed to deliver when met with legal obstacles.
Now, showing that he has truly moved to the opposite end of the spectrum, he is endorsing the tools and civil powers that he once rallied against.
‘It’s something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration,’ said Human Rights Watch spokesman Tom Malinowski.
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‘It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent,’ Mr Malinowski continued.
Considering he is now in the midst of running for re-election, comparisons between Mr Obama and Mr Bush are certainly not something the President wants going into the 2012 race.
Civil rights groups are outraged after he dropped the threat of a veto Wednesday, meaning the bill will become a law and implement several controversial provisions, like the ability to keep all terror suspects imprisoned.
Though there are already 46 ‘indefinite detainees’ at Guantanamo currently, this new provision would allow the government to consider Americans with close ties to Al Queda or the Taliban.
Controversial: The military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has always been a divisive topic because of the limited rights given to prisoners
One part of the debate has been whether terror suspects should be prosecuted as criminals and tried in a civilian court, as Mr Obama would like, or if they are deemed ‘enemy combatants’ and given trials in military courts which have less civil liberties for the defendants, which Republican lawmakers would prefer.
The defence bill with the controversial position shows that in light of the continued setbacks in the push for closure of Guantanamo, the Republicans are seemingly winning the fight.
Head office: Mr Obama has consistently wanted the ability to have prisoners tried in civilian courts
‘While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counter-terrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength,’ the White House statement said.
Congress passed the massive $662 billion defence bill Thursday , the Senate voting 86-13 for the measure. It would also authorize money for military personnel, weapons systems, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and national security programs in the Energy Department for the financial year beginning October 1.
The legislation is $27billion less than Obama wanted and $43billion less than Congress gave the Pentagon this year, a reflection of deficit-driven federal budgets, the end of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House voted 283-136 for the measure late on Wednesday. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said Thursday the cooperation was a ‘little ray of sunshine’ in a bitterly divided Washington.
It also shows some foreign-policy muscle in pre-emptively freezing hundreds of millions of dollars tentatively headed to Pakistan in aid unless the defence department gets firm assurances that the country will help cut off the production and proliferation of homemade bombs.
In addition to the concerns over a curtailing of civil liberties, some critics speculate that the bill may give leeway to Republicans in next year’s presidential elections by highlighting Mr Obama’s flip-flopping on the issue.
‘It’s really distressing that the White House clearly shares the concerns of the national security establishment [against the bill], but feels like a veto is not politically sustainable,’ said Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the non-profit National Security Network.
CAMP OF CONTROVERSY: THE SAGA OF GUANTANAMO
The camp, which he once called a ‘sad chapter in American history’ seems to be one that will be going on for longer as his plans to close the controversial camp have failed his repeated attempts.
Different rules: Military and civilian courts give detainees different rights, and the new bill will allow the military rules to continue without civilian trials
Originally opened by President George Bush in January 2002, the camp was originally used as a place to store particularly dangerous prisoners as they were not given any rights granted under the Geneva Conventions.
Though their legal standing has changed slightly throughout the years, the camp is widely seen as a symbol of diminishing civil rights standards.
During the 2008 campaign, Mr Obama promised to close the camp within his first year in office. He first took action within his first two days in office, issuing a suspension of prosecutions at the camp.
Even though he followed up with an executive order, his efforts were thwarted by bureaucracy and legal posturing.
First, they found the proper legal files on individual prisoners were not kept up to date, preventing a quick reassignment to other prisons elsewhere.
The next problem was where to put them when moved out of Cuba: options in Kansas, Michigan and Illinois were exhausted after the local legislators put up fights because their constituents didn’t want to be living near terrorists.
The biggest blow to the effort came in January of this year, when President Obama signed the Defence Authorization Bill stopping the talk of transferring the prisoners to mainland America or foreign countries who had offered to house the prisoners.
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