Obama signs the 2013 NDAA.

04 Jan

Updated below.

Update 2 below.

This article reports that Obama signed the 2013 NDAA:

as does this one:

President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 on Wednesday, giving his stamp of approval to a Pentagon spending bill that will keep Guantanamo Bay open and make indefinite detention for US citizens as likely as ever.
The president inked his name to the 2013 NDAA on Wednesday evening to little fanfare, and accompanied his signature with a statement condemning a fair number of provisions contained in a bill that he nevertheless endorsed.

The NDAA, an otherwise mundane annual bill that lays out the use of funds for the Department of Defense, has come under attack during the Obama administration for the introduction of a provision last year that allows the military to detain United States citizens indefinitely without charge or trial for mere suspicions of ties to terrorism. Under the 2012 NDAA’s Sec. 1021, Pres. Obama agreed to give the military the power to arrest and hold Americans without the writ of habeas corpus, although he promised with that year’s signing statement that his administration would not abuse that privilege. […]

Although the Pres. Obama rejected the indefinite detention clause when signing the 2012 NDAA, a statement issued late Wednesday from the White House failed to touch on the military’s detainment abilities. On the other hand, Pres. Obama did voice his opposition to a number of provisions included in the latest bill, particularly ones that will essentially render his promise of closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison impossible.

Despite repeated pleas that Gitmo will be closed on his watch, Pres. Obama failed to do as much during his first term in the White House. Thanks to a provision in the 2013 NDAA, the Pentagon will be unable to use funds to transfer detainees out of that facility and to other sights, ensuring they will remain at the top-secret military prison for the time being.

“Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all. Our Constitution does not afford the president the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by one,” Pres. Obama writes.

Congress, claims the president, designed sections of the new defense bill “in order to foreclose my ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”

“I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and strengthening our enemies,” he says.

Elsewhere, the president claims that certain provisions in the act threaten to interview with his “constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch” of the United States.

Before the 2013 NDAA was finalized, it was reported by the White House that Pres. Obama would veto the legislation over the provisions involving Guantanamo Bay. Similarly, the White House originally said the president would veto the 2012 NDAA over the indefinite detention provisions, although he signed it regardless “with reservations” on December 31 of that year.

Since authorizing the 2012 NDAA, the president has been challenged in federal court by a team of plaintiffs who say that the indefinite detention clause is unconstitutional. US District Judge Katherine Forrest agreed that Sec. 1021 of the 2012 NDAA violated the US Constitution and granted a permanent injunction on the Obama administration from using that provision, but the White House successfully fought to appeal that decision.

Commenting on the latest signing, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero says, “President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day.” 

“His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended,” adds Romero. “He also has jeopardized his ability to close Guantanamo during his presidency. Scores of men who have already been held for nearly 11 years without being charged with a crime–including more than 80 who have been cleared for transfer–may very well be imprisoned unfairly for yet another year. The president should use whatever discretion he has in the law to order many of the detainees transferred home, and finally step up next year to close Guantanamo and bring a definite end to indefinite detention.”

Thomas also says the bill is signed.  “1/2/2013: Signed by President.”   –

But govtrack claims that the bill is dead, since it was not signed before the end of this congressional period:

H.R. 4310 (112th): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013
Mar 29, 2012 (112th Congress, 2011–2013)
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon [R-CA25]
Died (At President)

This bill was passed by Congress on December 21, 2012 but was not enacted before the end of its Congressional session.

It was this discrepancy which first led me down a labyrinth of questioning the specific time and date of the president’s signature on the bill.  I had also, just yesterday, heard numerous remarks from members of Congress regarding the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, not voted on because of Boehner’s refusal to bring it up before the session ended.  The complaint from the out-going Congress was that now the new Congress will have to rewrite and resubmit the whole thing for Congress to vote on, since any legislation not enacted before the session ends is “dead” and irrelevant – tossed out.

The White House website shows that the NDAA bill was signed on 2 Jan. or 3 Jan., depending on which place you look on the website.  On the “Signed Legislation” page, it lists the 2013 NDAA as signed on 2 Jan.  So Govtrack (above) is incorrect, OR the pres just illegally signed a bill that had expired.  [Note on sessions of Congress:  A “term of Congress” or “a Congress” lasts for two years, and begins on January 3 of each odd-numbered year.]  Thus it is a rather big deal whether he signed this bill on the 2nd or the 3rd.  The president’s statement on the NDAA opens with the remark that “Today, I have signed into law….”; and is dated 3 Jan.  I.e., the “today” referred to is Jan 3rd. 

He signed this while in Hawaii?  [from WH website: “The President left Washington shortly after announcing that the fiscal cliff compromise measure was passed by the House on New Year’s Day. He arrived around 5:00AM on Wednesday morning. The Obama family will remain in Hawaii through Saturday January 5th.”]  So, yes, apparently he signed this while on vacation.  He is allowed to sign official papers while away from Washington.  They sometimes use what is called an autopen, which was used to sign the Fiscal Cliff BullShit Bill.  (  Some members of Congress think the autopen is unconstitutional (, but that is completely irrelevant in this case, since the NDAA bill itself was brought to Hawaii with him so he could sign it by hand.  So as long as he signed it before 12:07 p.m. Hawaii time on Wednesday, he would have made the Washington DC time deadline for signing legislation from this session of Congress, which officially ended at 5:07 p.m., Wed., Jan 2nd, when Congress adjourned for the last time in this session.  The official schedule for Congress:

Wednesday, Jan 02, 2013
The Senate convened at 12:00 p.m. and adjourned at 5:07 p.m.

Thursday, Jan 03, 2013
12:00 p.m.: Convene the first session of the 113th Congress.

Well, who knows after all?  Maybe there is some no-man’s land in the time-space continuum wherein a bill can become law as long as it’s signed before the next Congress convenes, even if the old Congress is officially adjourned.  This would mean he had until noon on Thursday to sign the thing and still have it be legal.  I am vainly looking for some loopholes and am wasting my time, I’m sure.  (And now I’ve wasted a few minutes of yours, too.  Sorry, dear reader.)  In the end, my obsessing over the time-stamp is meaningless.  We no longer adhere to any known “rule of law” or the “Constitution”, so who cares?  The bill is signed and Obama’s signature will be accepted as making it law, no matter when he actually signed the thing.  Or where, or what he used to sign it.

The WH press secretary released this statement:

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 4310
On Wednesday, January 2, 2013, the President signed into law:
H.R. 4310, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013,” which authorizes fiscal year 2013 appropriations for Department of Defense programs and military construction, Department of Energy national security programs, and Department of Transportation maritime security programs; authorizes recruitment and retention bonuses, special payments, and other authorities relating to the U.S. Armed Forces; and makes other modifications to national security, foreign affairs, and other related programs.

Obama’s statement upon signing the bill may be read here – and you will note he has no objection to section 1021(b)(2), which deals with the indefinite detention and possible military incarceration and trials of Americans “involved” (undefined) with “terror-related activities” (undefined):

As I mentioned, this statement has a different date on it than the press secretary’s does, and opens with this:
January 03, 2013

Today I have signed into law H.R. 4310, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. […]”

UPDATE,  Sat., 5 Jan.

Someone told govtrack to get their shit together.  Yesterday, they were being all nit-picky and claiming that the NDAA was officially “dead” due to the fact that it wasn’t signed in time; now the status reads: “This bill was passed by Congress on December 21, 2012 but was not enacted before the end of its Congressional session. (It is possible this bill is waiting for the signature of the President.)”

This amusing anecdote is brought to you by the US government and its proud sponsor, Corrupt Is Us, and is paid for by loyal viewers like you.

UPDATE TWO, Sat., 5 Jan.

It occurs to me that it may be somewhat tedious for everyone to wade through the presidential signing statement, much less the entire 2013 NDAA, so I will outline what I consider some of the more egregious and offensive parts of both.  First and foremost, the NDAA makes into “law”, a term that with increasing frequency does not refer to anything we have recognized as constitutional or common law since our founding, the indefinite detention of any and all human beings, including Americans.  Thus, Obama and Congress have erased the most basic of rights that society has accepted since the Magna Carta.  We are now returned to pre-Enlightenment days.  Because both houses of Congress penned the bill and Obama signed it, one must assume that this was the intention.  Obama does not mention this section of the bill in his signing statement.

In no particular order, other sections of the NDAA provide for: over 600 bb for Pentagon spending.  (This is for one year.)  Add to that the funding for “security” hired by the State Dept., the drones operated by the State Dept. – the State Dept. is weaponized and uses mercenary forces although the State Dept. does not technically answer to Obama as “Commander in Chief”, the secret CIA budget – part of which is now used for the militarized operations of drone warfare, although the CIA does not answer to Obama as “Commander in Chief”, the funding for Homeland Security, subsidies given to weapons manufacturers via other Congressional bills, etc., etc., and we are spending well over a couple of trillion a year on military and/or “war on terror” funding.  (This peculiar obsession with weapons and warfare continues unabated despite the fact that the US military has so many weapons it sells or gives the excess to local police departments around the country – clearly we are not in danger of running out of hardware.  As a matter of fact, Obama’s signing statement opens with the remark that he feels he must sign it because it “renews vital national security programs, and helps ensure that the United States will continue to have the strongest military in the world”.)  It increases the already onerous sanctions on Iran for “doing” something they are not actually doing: building nuclear weapons.  Iran has not threatened to invade or bomb anyone, but they do have some seriously coveted oil resources.  Aside from the sanctions, the NDAA mandates that the US make “visible preparations” for war against them.  The NDAA bars the closing down of the prison at Guantanamo Bay or transferring the prisoners to the US for trials (or any other reason).  It instructs Obama to submit a plan for implementing a “No-fly Zone” over Syria.

Aside from what I quoted above, Obama, in his signing statement, objects to section 1028 of the NDAA : “Section 1028 fundamentally maintains the unwarranted restrictions on the executive branch’s authority to transfer detainees to a foreign country. This provision hinders the Executive’s ability to carry out its military, national security, and foreign relations activities and would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.”  He is talking about rendition here, and he objects to any interference with the practice.

In the following, he objects to a section of the law which protects whistle-blowers who are employed by outside military contractors and who are attempting to provide information revealing Pentagon abuses, mismanagement or corruption. He is invoking the state secret privilege in advance, in other words, and insists that Congress must not be the direct recipient of whistle-blower communications.

“Certain provisions in the Act threaten to interfere with my constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch. Specifically, sections 827, 828, and 3164 could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials. As my Administration previously informed the Congress, I will interpret those sections consistent with my authority to direct the heads of executive departments to supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential. Additionally, section 1034 would require a subordinate to submit materials directly to the Congress without change, and thereby obstructs the traditional chain of command. I will implement this provision in a manner consistent with my authority as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the head of the executive branch.”

1 Comment

Posted by on January 4, 2013 in civil rights, security state


One response to “Obama signs the 2013 NDAA.

  1. paxhonu

    January 6, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Yes, it’s all gone quite beyond the bend. A likely illegal process to sign into existence a law in clear contradiction of the constitution, further muddied by a signing statement challenging, disregarding, or reinterpreting provisions at whim (and the constitutionality of signing statements in general is also questionable). And what of the parade of executive orders of varying degrees of conformity to law or constitution. No help whatsoever from a supreme court whose decisions are so often obviously and ridiculously incorrect, or from attorneys general who, like their brethren on the bench, simply alter the meaning of words to fit their desired policy. And when a president acts outside of even all that wide latitude, as in what is now an epidemic of illegal drone wars or the occasional North Africa genocide, do we have a Congress with the will, the fiber, the honor, the self respect to impeach? No, we do not. There is not even one any more who stands against these things. They are all in on the game and they have all sided with money and war and imperialism, with less than no regard for the people.



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