Breaking: Congress Passes 2013 NDAA, President Obama Must Veto

December 21, 2012

Protest at the White House against the prison at Guantanamo Today, Congress again failed to uphold the U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. It passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with provisions that would gravely hinder the effort to close Guantanamo prison, and would further entrench indefinite detention.

This is unacceptable, morally and legally. And it’s a reason why Amnesty International and 28 other human rights, religious and civil liberties organizations sent a letter calling on President Obama to veto the NDAA.

Secretary of Defense Panetta, White House advisors, and Senator Feinstein (D-CA) have recommended that the President veto the 2013 NDAA. Last year, President Obama failed to follow through on a veto threat and signed the NDAA on New Year’s Eve. It is time for him to take a stand on human rights by vetoing the NDAA and fulfilling his promise to close Guantanamo prison.

Shaker Aamer, for example, should not be held without charge at Guantanamo for another day. He has been held without charge for over a decade, despite being cleared for transfer out of the prison, and despite the British government’s call that he be released to his wife and children in London.

All people have the right to a fair trial and the right to be free from arbitrary detention. Anyone detained—you, me, the Guantanamo detainees, etc.—must either be charged and fairly tried, or be released.

These are bedrock principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and in international law. These rights cannot be stripped away by Congress or the President in the name of a never-ending and vaguely defined “global war.”

The specific provisions of the 2013 NDAA (H.R. 4310) we are most concerned about are:

  • Section 1027 continues a ban on the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. mainland, even for a fair and secure trial in federal court.
  • Section 1028 continues onerous conditions on the transfer of cleared Guantanamo detainees to other countries.
  • In addition, sections 1021 and 1022 of the 2012 NDAA remain on the books. They further entrench indefinite military detention, reaffirm the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), and appear to expand the vague definition of people to whom the AUMF applies.

That said, the 2013 NDAA was poised to be even worse. But thanks to your efforts, the following provisions didn’t make it in:

  • Seantor Ayotte’s (R-NH) attempt to make the ban on funds for transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. mainland, even for trial, permanent, as well as her attempt to require construction of a “new Guantanamo.” This is the same Senator who tried last year to bring back waterboarding. Enough said.
  • Senator Feinstein’s attempt to exclude U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from indefinite detention. A coalition of human rights and civil liberties groups opposed Senator Feinstein’s provision because it entrenched indefinite detention for non-citizens and, regardless, still allowed for indefinite detention of citizens by Congressional authorization. It was a false fix and counter-productive.
  • Furthermore, you helped include a positive, un-related amendment that supports the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. If the NDAA is vetoed, as it should be, then this important provision must be introduced and passed at the next opportunity.

The above improvements to the 2013 NDAA show that your voice really does make a difference. Please use it again right now to fix the remaining problems with the NDAA by urging President Obama to take a stand for human rights and veto the bill.

Take Action

  • Call the White House comment line at 1.202.456.1111 and say: “I am calling to urge President Obama to veto the NDAA. I oppose indefinite detention and I want the President to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo prison.  Detainees must either be charged and fairly tried in federal court, or be released to countries that will respect their human rights.  Thank you.”
  • Sign up for the January 11 Day of Action to Close Guantanamo.