By JR on Sunday, January 01, 2012
In its final form the bill does seem to leave open the possibility of challenging military detentions of U.S. citizens in American courts but Obama's signing statement would appear to strengthen that
US President Barack Obama signed a huge defence Bill today, despite having "serious reservations'' that it seeks to force his hand on Guantanamo Bay and military trials for terror suspects.
Mr Obama, who is holidaying in Hawaii, added a signing statement to the $662 billion law, laying out objections to its clauses on detaining and prosecuting suspects, and directing government agencies on how to interpret them.
"I have signed this Bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists,'' Mr Obama said.
The measure, which passed by wide majorities in Congress, says the US military has the power to detain terror suspects without trial for as long as the US global anti-terror campaign is waged.
Mr Obama was particularly troubled by a section of the Bill which appears to leave open the option that a US citizen who is considered a terror suspect could be detained indefinitely in military custody. "I want to clarify that my administration will not authorise the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,'' Mr Obama said. "Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.''
However, the President said he believed the Bill did grant him sufficient latitude to interpret its provisions in compliance with the US Constitution and the laws of war.
The White House had initially threatened to veto the Bill because of the detainee measures, but backed off when a compromise version was agreed with lawmakers.
A signing statement lays out what the president's understanding is of a measure he is signing into law and tells government officials and agencies exactly how the new legislation should be implemented.