President Barack Obama ushered in the New Year by signing the much contested 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 31 December 2011. The bill authorizes $622 billion in military spending through 2012. The bill will take effect 3 March 2012.
The President had objected to provisions that would have forced him to try terrorism suspects in military courts and impose strict sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, provisions that were modified after negotiations with Congress. Obama subsequently accepted these changes and signed the Act because it guarantees continued military funding. Nevertheless, Obama publicly stated his continued reservations: “The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
Sections 1021 and 1022 have been the source of much criticism and controversy. Section 1021 reaffirms U.S. military authority to detain “covered” individuals pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which many have read to imply that U.S. nationals can now be lawfully detained without trial. Section 1022 makes military custody mandatory for a subset of detainees, but seems to exclude U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The NDAA also authorizes the military, for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing.
The NDAA is considered by many a sweeping expansion of executive power beyond any that was seen under the Bush administration. Many civil liberty, human rights, and Muslim groups protested the signing of the bill and on 16 January 2012, journalist and war correspondent Chris Hedges announced that he was suing the President and challenging the legality of the AUMF as embedded in the NDAA. See Hedges’ announcement here.