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Obama Expresses Displeasure With Guantanamo Restrictions But Signs Them Into Law

The president says he will seek the repeal of new provisions tucked into defense-spending legislation, but averts a confrontation with the new Congress by not raising constitutional objections.

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President Barack Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, under pressure from supporters and opponents alike, issued a statement late Friday objecting to legislative provisions that severely limit his ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo, but stopped short of challenging their constitutionality.

Without such an objection, the statement, though strongly worded, amounts to little more than a complaint. Still, it helps the president to avoid a potential fight with a new Congress over Guantanamo.

The provisions were included in a law funding the military through September. Shortly after signing the legislation, the president released a statement saying his administration would “work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future.”

House Republicans have said they plan to put the restrictions in additional legislation.

The legislation contains provisions that would limit Obama's ability to move Guantanamo detainees to the United States, either for prosecution or for continued imprisonment. It also will make it difficult to transfer detainees to other countries. Congressional Republicans have made a ban on such transfers a goal.

Some of Obama's advisers had pushed for a broad repudiation of the provisions, claiming they constituted undue infringement on the president's right to prosecutorial discretion. But White House lawyers disagreed. Obama could have vetoed the bill, but said he chose to sign it, despite his strong objections, "because of the importance of authorizing appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011."

For supporters of Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo, this was a moment to watch. His response to the provisions, many argued, would test his commitment to a policy that has come under assault.

If the president accepts the provisions as a total ban on transferring out detainees, "then he is letting Congress roll him on a priority issue," said Chris Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union. "And once you get rolled, you will get rolled over and over again. I think it will make his job extraordinary difficult for the rest of this Congress.”

The ACLU interpreted Obama's statement favorably, but there were critics, too.

David Remes, a Washington lawyer who represents a number of detainees, said, "Obama should have issued no statement rather than this one, which is a confession of impotence" with regards to implementing his policies.

Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution said the statement was so weak that it "borders on the trivial."

"It not only fails to make a constitutional objection, it does not interpret the provision. All it does is complain," he said.

To the president's opponents, any effort to skirt the provisions would likely be seen as provocative.

Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers, the incoming chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a radio interview yesterday that the provisions in the pending defense spending legislation were designed to "prevent any detainee at Guantanamo from being brought to this country for any purpose."

Rogers said the same provision would appear in a continuing resolution or omnibus spending package to fund the rest of the government through 2011. Guantanamo, however, will be fully funded, he said, ensuring that it remains open.

Chasity Lowman

Jan. 7, 2011, 8:28 p.m.

Maybe an admission of impotence was exactly what we we’re meant to see.Has anyone ever put thought to the President being as much a puppet as we are? Why is Congress never ridiculed or polled? Why when his hands are tied do we point & laugh instead of coming to his aid?

Michele Lantieri

Jan. 7, 2011, 9:01 p.m.

Interesting comment Chasity. I have often wondered if Obama came into his role as president not realizing how fucked up it actually is and now he is constantly pressured, probably bullied, into going against his promises. Could you say how, specifically,  we could come to his aid?

Michael Guittar

Jan. 7, 2011, 9:08 p.m.

How we could come to his aid? It’s simple. He lead us to mass in record numbers during this campaign to come and listen as he told us what this country could become. WE have to organize ourselves and DEMAND that he makes good on it!  If it wasn’t for the great activists of the 60s and early 70’s, do you really think civil rights, peace, and victories of the progressive movement would of happened? We were able to organize ourselves back then. We must do it now.. I don’t want to live in an america lead by the extreme right. 8 years of Bush was enough!

aybe an admission of impotence was exactly what we we’re meant to see.Has anyone ever put thought to the President being as much a puppet as we are? Why is Congress never ridiculed or polled? Why when his hands are tied do we point & laugh instead of coming to his aid?

Michael Guittar

40 minutes ago

How we could come to his aid? It’s simple. He lead us to mass in record numbers during this campaign to come and listen as he told us what this country could become. WE have to organize ourselves and DEMAND that he makes good on it!  If it wasn’t for the great activists of the 60s and early 70’s, do you really think civil rights, peace, and victories of the progressive movement would of happened? We were able to organize ourselves back then. We must do it now.. I don’t want to live in an america lead by the extreme right. 8 years of Bush was enough!


Believe you will love it.

happy good web

Greg D Griffin

Jan. 8, 2011, 10:10 a.m.

Yet another example of the fact that Obama either doesn’t realize he is, or want to be, Commander in Chief. Guantanamo is a Military base. The detainees are under military guard. We have military prisons or we could lease a prison and use military guards. He’s C n C. If you don’t like the orders, youre fired. It could be as simple as that. A cheap and easy way to cut the fat. We have too many useless Generals as it is. As Lincoln said, “with the stroke of a pen I can make any old Colonel a General, we can negotiate about the horses.” This after Confederate troops took a Union General hostage and stole a corral of horses. He also made the point why would he want back a General who allowed himself to be taken hostage? He had plenty of Colonels who wanted to be Generals.

If Obama were suddenly transformed into Bush, he would attach an Executive Order, reducing that part of the legislation to ashes.

Poor Baby, wheres Michele when you need her..

The Republicans are essentially codifying their cowardice into law by extending their globally-recognized status of “chickenhawks” into the realm of justice.

With these actions, they formalize their own protection from any risk that results from the overt and covert actions they or their masters - primarily but not limited to Big Oil - undertake to gain access to or control of resources lying outside of the United States of America.

Instead, they leave those Americans whose patriotism or economic circumstances lead them to place themselves in harm’s way on behalf of our nation to face any and all repercussions arising from the heinous actions the few - and their puppets, the Republicans and the other variants of the right - carry out to satiate their greed.

Individuals who do not see all Americans as being equally deserving of opportunity and protection…who instead see some Americans as “expendable” if their sacrifice guarantees or increases the rate of enrichment of a few…well, they’re not really Americans. 

I do not see the Republicans in Congress as Americans.

What I really despise about the Republicans and who they represent?  Their cowardice…their endless willingness to kill from positions of safety.

And the hypocrisy that results from that cowardice…

I am expected to hate and despise al Qaida and its variants for their cowardly murder of the innocent - murders that they say are carried out in revenge for the actions of a few.

And I do - but I need no external motivation to discern right from wrong and so condemn fundamentalist Islamic terrorism for what it is:  The actions of rabid dogs; actions that merit only their hunting and extermination.

Period.

But I am supposed to honor and applaud our Republicans - our right - for using the exact same tactics?  For killing many, many thousands with the actions of a few as their justification?  When even those killings are tainted by the scent of oil - and wealth?  I am supposed to blindly ignore the fact that our right - when in a position of leadership - chose not to hunt down and destroy the culpable few, but rather chose to use the actions of that few as an excuse to occupy Afghanistan and invade Iraq?

And in the process, killed many thousands of Americans?

When they constantly take actions such as these bill riders to protect themselves from the consequences of what - all while demanding that other Americans expose themselves to death in the sand and rocks of lands far away?

Pray tell why I should honor and respect one pack of craven dogs but not the other?

Obama should have stayed in the senate.  His proclivity to compromise would have been an asset there.  He was never cut out to be the president, the front man who leads the way.

Have we forgotten so quickly that the Dem’s had a solid majority in both Houses and did,NOTHING. It took a lame duck session and the giveaway of trillions to the rich to get Don’t Ask struck down and now even cocervative economists are saying how bad the tax cut is for America. The President had 2 years to do something about Gitmo and he didn’t. How about the “openness"we were promised. My only hope is that the Dem’s will find someone with the cohones to run in 12 rather than the great compromiser!

guantanamo means kidnaped persons to become terrorists.first case of terrorism with cia involved was in 1987 against reagan.the method is used in assassinate this time against the civilian people.is based on chemical weapon and manipulation from distance. this is what happaned to Fort Bliss.is only about psychologicaly simptoms and a complicity with a voice on brain for persons around the other person who is psychologicaly tortured (concret case Fort Hood).means compulsion to suicide cause you cant support them.all the stories are similary if exists a factor of manipulation with the same conflicts.the medicine is imposible to beat the waves -the compulsion and isolation medium direct on brain means psychologicaly torture against one person without anybody to see, brainwashing, a conviction against an enemy ,usualy is not cia and the other persons who are used to kill a person who are afraid to talk about this .next time will be concret cases with a cover attack