With his December 31 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allowing for indefinite military detention without charges or trial, Barack Obama has made an infamous contribution to the steady march towards police-state dictatorship in the United States.
The sweeping implications of this act, pushed through to provide $662 billion to feed the US war machine, could not be concealed by the shamefaced signing ceremony, held in private and late in the day on New Year’s Eve to minimize media coverage and public attention.
Nor is the objective content of the clauses legalizing the military’s locking up of American citizens and non-citizens alike on the sole say-so of the White House changed in the slightest by the hypocritical signing statement the president issued in enacting the legislation.
Claiming “serious reservations” about the law he was enacting, Obama declared that “my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of US citizens.” He allowed that such a practice would “break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”
Obama’s pledge is as duplicitous as it is worthless. As one of the legislation’s key Democratic sponsors, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, revealed, the Obama White House intervened directly into the legislative process to kill amendments that would have specifically prohibited the military from indefinitely imprisoning US citizens without trial. It viewed such an exemption as an unacceptable restriction on presidential power.