Obama Threatens Veto Of Defense Bill Over Military Custody For Terror Suspects Mandate

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President Barack Obama is threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 over “unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial” restrictions imposed by Congress which would mandate certain terrorism suspects go into military custody.

“The Administration objects to and has serious legal and policy concerns about many of the detainee provisions in the bill,” the White House said in a statement. “In their current form, some of these provisions disrupt the Executive branch’s ability to enforce the law and impose unwise and unwarranted restrictions on the U.S. Government’s ability to aggressively combat international terrorism; other provisions inject legal uncertainty and ambiguity that may only complicate the military’s operations and detention practices.”Specifically, the administration “strongly objects to the military custody provision of section 1032, which would appear to mandate military custody for a certain class of terrorism suspects.”

The administration says that the “unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial restriction of the President’s authority to defend the Nation from terrorist threats would tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals.” The statement continues:

Moreover, applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the United States, as some Members of Congress have suggested is their intention, would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets. We have spent ten years since September 11, 2001, breaking down the walls between intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals; Congress should not now rebuild those walls and unnecessarily make the job of preventing terrorist attacks more difficult. Specifically, the provision would limit the flexibility of our national security professionals to choose, based on the evidence and the facts and circumstances of each case, which tool for incapacitating dangerous terrorists best serves our national security interests. The waiver provision fails to address these concerns, particularly in time-sensitive operations in which law enforcement personnel have traditionally played the leading role. These problems are all the more acute because the section defines the category of individuals who would be subject to mandatory military custody by substituting new and untested legislative criteria for the criteria the Executive and Judicial branches are currently using for detention under the AUMF in both habeas litigation and military operations. Such confusion threatens our ability to act swiftly and decisively to capture, detain, and interrogate terrorism suspects, and could disrupt the collection of vital intelligence about threats to the American people.

Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.,” the statement says.

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