Usually when someone – a business, government, or otherwise – wants to let out some bad information that needs to be public but could do with less exposure (to the benefit of the releaser) it’s a good idea to release said information late on a Friday. This is known as a “document dump”. With the weekend about to begin, whatever stories would come out from the release of said information would be treated to less media exposure than otherwise during the week whether it’s from a function of less journalists writing or less readers reading. It’s a tacky way to play political games that each party, each Presidency, is entirely guilty of.
There’s varying degrees of the dumps, though. A Friday evening is bad enough. A Friday evening before a holiday weekend garners you even less attention. A Saturday afternoon hours before New Year’s Eve celebrations begin? Now that’s a special kind of dump. It was in that dim of a spotlight that President Obama decided to sign into law the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As mentioned previously, the NDAA is an annual event. It’s a has-to-pass piece of legislation in order to keep funding basic military functions and operations, right on down to paying soldiers. This makes it a juicy and ripe target for attaching controversial riders that would otherwise probably not stand a chance on their own for being passed – or would draw too much negative attention if an attempt was made.
The highlight of this year’s attached uselessness were buried in sections 1031 and 1032 of the law. Signing this bill would codify into law the practices the U.S. has engaged in in the post 9/11 security state: indefinite detention of terror suspects – even the ones who have been cleared of wrongdoing (Guantanamo Bay) – redefining the battlefield as “anywhere” to match the War on Terror’s end time as “never”, and extending the ability to indefinitely detain someone from non U.S. citizens to U.S. citizens in the United States. After some previous argument about draft language of the bill, language that would have given the Secretary of Defense the power to decide who gets to be held indefinitely or not in federal prison or at a military facility was instead transferred to the President. President Obama had threatened to veto the bill if that was not done, and sure enough dropped the veto threat once that was accomplished.
Instead of signing the bill when the cameras were still in Washington and the political world had not checked out for the holidays, the President waited to sign the bill until nearly the last possible moment – during the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. He did sign it with some “reservations” though, expressed in a signing statement:
“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” Mr. Obama said in a statement issued in Hawaii, where he is on vacation. “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
The president, for example, said that he would never authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, because “doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.” He also said he would reject a “rigid across-the-board requirement” that suspects be tried in military courts rather than civilian courts.