President Obama recently signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, proving once again that, in foreign policy, the Bush Doctrine reigns. To be sure, Obama made a stellar choice in appointing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. However, his failure to close Guantanamo Bay prison, and his decisions to pursue detainment powers under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force act are missteps.
The Guantanamo Bay detention facility is arguably one of the most egregious affronts to our nation’s principles. It contradicts our most fundamental beliefs of civil and political human rights, and sends a message to other nations to disregard them as well. Yet, there has been consistent backtracking on the judicial oversight that finally arrived for Guantanamo Bay detainees in 2004 when the Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo Bay prisoners had rights to due process.
To be clear, Obama could have vetoed the NDAA. Others, such as President Reagan, Clinton, W. Bush and Carter, vetoed such acts during their terms. If there were any reason to veto a bill, denying individuals a fair trial has to be among the top 10.
However, President Obama signed the bill. Though this marks yet another missed opportunity to right the path of U.S. counter-terrorism policies, his signing is not surprising. The current administration has pursued a broad scope of “covered persons” under the original 2001 bill, which allows for the indefinite detention of persons without due process, including U.S. citizens. When a federal district court judge struck down the law as unconstitutional, the administration appealed the ruling.
That any person should be held by a United States agency without the possibility of being transferred for trial in a federal court is ludicrous. Equally ludicrous is that Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, may never close down the facility or revoke the ill-created precedent of detaining people (U.S. citizens or not) indefinitely without trial.
Obama once stated, “Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.”
Perhaps we can all agree that a good moral compass points toward upholding fundamental civil rights, even against the most heinous perpetrators.