ACLU Comment on President’s National Security Speech

May 23, 2013 4:00 pm

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Below is a statement from Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, on President Obama’s national security speech today:

“President Obama is right to say that we cannot be on a war footing forever, but the time to take our country off the global warpath and fully restore the rule of law is now, not at some indeterminate future point. Four years into his presidency, President Obama has finally taken the first steps to jumpstart his administration’s effort to make good on early campaign promises to close Guantánamo and recognized the human cost of failing to act. These are encouraging and noteworthy actions.

“To the extent the speech signals an end to signature strikes, recognizes the need for congressional oversight, and restricts the use of drones to threats against the American people, the developments on targeted killings are promising. Yet the president still claims broad authority to carry out targeted killings far from any battlefield, and there is still insufficient transparency. We continue to disagree fundamentally with the idea that due process requirements can be satisfied without any form of judicial oversight by regular federal courts.

“We are particularly gratified that President Obama embraced our recommendations to use his authority to allow prompt transfer and release of Guantánamo detainees who pose no national security threat and that have been cleared by the military and intelligence agencies. We also applaud his appointment of a high level official to supervise the process for closing Guantánamo once and for all.

“But there are other problems that must still be addressed. The unconstitutional military commissions must be shuttered, not brought to the United States. While the president expressed appropriate concern about indefinite detention, he offered no clear plan for ending this unconstitutional policy for those who have not been tried or cleared for release.

“President Obama’s efforts to repair his legacy in the eyes of future historians will require that he continue to double down if he is to fully restore this nation’s standing at home and abroad. The ACLU realizes that Congress has thrown significant barriers in closing Guantánamo. But in some areas Congress has been more progressive, having recently demanded legal memoranda that claim to authorize the illegal killing program. The ACLU stands ready to work with, and if necessary do battle with, those elements of government that impede our nation’s obligations to honor the rule of law and to protect our values while safeguarding our security.”

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