Blog of Rights

Obama White House Threatens a Veto Over Worldwide War and Detention Provisions

By Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Chris Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 9:03pm

Wow! Late this afternoon, the Obama White House threatened to VETO the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill that the House of Representatives is debating and voting on this week, if it includes a new law for worldwide war without end, or any of the bad Guantánamo detention and limitation of prosecution provisions that Chairman Buck McKeon of the House Armed Services Committee slipped into the bill. 

The statement is the strongest and most principled stand the White House has taken on these kinds of provisions. The Obama administration is saying no to the proposed worldwide war law.  A veto threat is a very big deal. The president is making clear where he stands, and is backing it up with his veto pen, if Congress doesn’t fix the bill.

Here’s what the White House told Congress:

“The Administration strongly objects to section 1034 [the worldwide war provision] which, in purporting to affirm the conflict, would effectively recharacterize its scope and would risk creating confusion regarding applicable standards.  At a minimum, this is an issue that merits more extensive consideration before possible inclusion...” 

On the NDAA’s troubling transfer restriction language, the administration said:

“…Section 1039 is a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical Executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and our national security interests.  It unnecessarily constrains our Nation's counterterrorism efforts and would undermine our national security, particularly where our Federal courts are the best - or even the only - option for incapacitating dangerous terrorists…If the final bill presented to the president includes these provisions that challenge critical executive branch authority, the president's senior advisors would recommend a veto.”

President Obama and his administration have to be commended for taking such a tough stance on issues of fundamental importance to the rule of law and our democracy.  The new White House statement should make us all work even harder to convince Congress to take out these dangerous provisions.

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