• December 21, 2011

    by Nicole Flatow

    Following Congress’s enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act with some tweaks to the detainee provisions, the White House put out a statement that President Obama’s advisers would no longer recommend he veto the law.

    Most have viewed this as an indirect announcement from Obama himself that the veto is off the table. But the Brennan Center for Justice’s Elizabeth Goitein reminds Obama in a column for The Hill that he alone will make the decision, and that it’s not too late to “reject this historic affront to our liberty and our security.”

    “It would be extraordinary for the president to change course now,” writes Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security. “But to sign a bill that permits the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge, erects pointless barriers to law enforcement’s counterterrorism efforts, and requires the detention of innocent people would be even more extraordinary.”

    Disappointment among civil libertarians has been widespread, with the Center for Constitutional Rights saying Obama has made a “choice with chilling consequences” and Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth warning, "By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law."

    Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole explains in The New York Review of Books why the bill, even as amended, “continues to contain extraordinarily dangerous principles”:

  • December 15, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    On Dec. 15, 1791 the Bill of Rights was ratified, making today its 220th anniversary. In November, 1941 FDR established Dec. 15 as a day to celebrate the Bill of Rights.

    The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts is offering some resources for both students and teachers about what the late Bernard Schwartz dubbed the “classic inventory of governmental restrictions that Madison termed ‘the great rights of mankind.’”

    The Obama administration is also joining the celebration. The White House’s Bill of Rights Day proclamation reads, in part, “Throughout our country’s history, generations have risen to uphold the principles outlined in our Bill of Rights and advance equality for all Americans. The liberties we enjoy today are possible only because of these brave patriots, from the service members who have defended our freedom to the citizens who have braved billy clubs and fire hoses in the hope of extending America’s promise across lines of color and creed. On Bill of Rights Day, we celebrate this proud legacy and resolve to pass to our children an America worthy of our Founders’ vision.”

    Others are marking the day, however, by highlighting a piece of legislation – the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – that they argue seriously threatens the tenets of the Bill of Rights, by greatly expanding executive power.

    The Bill of Rights Defense Committee says the NDAA “contains the most potentially oppressive national security powers we’ve seen in our lifetimes, easily worse than any Bush administration policy.”

    Writing for the ACLU’s Blog of Rights, Chris Anders says the NDAA “would authorize the president to send the military literally anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trail. Prison based on suspicion alone. The power is so sweeping that the president would be able to direct the military to use its powers within the United States itself, and even lock up American citizens without charge or trial.”