On Saturday, President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act into law during his vacation in Hawaii. As we have seen already here on SSD, there has been some controversy over certain provisions concerning detainment of terrorist suspects that were contained in earlier versions of the legislation before it was signed into law.
How an idea becomes a bill and then a law is pretty straight forward on the surface but the more complex the legislation and the more encompassing the issue, such as defense funding, the more amendments are tacked on meaning the bill can evolve and include issues that have nothing to do with the overarching intent. And then, there is that pesky issue of the House and Senate passing differing versions of the same bill. If the differences can’t be rectified via amendments then the bills go into conference committee with representatives from both chambers. While conventional wisdom says that there is gridlock in Washington, Congress sure can work out their differences in conference. The legislation that President Obama signed into law last week was the latest version of the bill, agreed upon by both houses of Congress.
Prior to its passage there were some rather disconcerting items in the proposed law that dealt with the indefinite detention of US citizens accused of being terrorists by the US military. Fortunately, they were removed in the wash. The House Armed Services Committee posted Highlights from the Conference report. Please visit and read:
http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=6bbafd38-7aae-46f9-b856-31652b920f1f and http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=23d194d7-78c9-4c57-b2d9-31bc3bb7daeb.
“The Conferees balance this approach with the conviction that the erosion of citizensâ€™ civil liberties in the pursuit of security constitutes a victory by the enemy. To that end, these provisions do not extend any new authorities to detain U.S. citizens and explicitly exempt U.S. citizens from provisions related to military custody of terrorists.”
In addition to these statements from the HASC, President Obama made a signing statement, specifically addressing these issues. A signing statement is made by the President when he signs legislation into law and uses it to show how he intends to enforce the measures.
“My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”
Unfortunately, there is an internet meme loose on the web that continues to misinform readers that the law now requires the indefinite detention of American citizens by the US military. Furthermore, fearmongers are using this misinformation to captivate and mislead the uninformed.
We urge you to research the actual law and to spread the word. There are a lot of tidbits in the Act that are more likely to impact international affairs and our economic recovery.