White House Caves on Defense Bill Veto Threat

<a target="_blank" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulk/3080299313/">Paul Keller/Flickr</a>


The President will not veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over provisions codifying the use of indefinite military detention on American soil.

As I reported Tuesday, the latest version of the NDAA effectively rendered the provisions “mandating” military custody of non-citizen terrorism suspects arrested on US soil optional. The revised NDAA would make it possible for someone like convicted underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab to go from capture to trial without ever passing through military custody.

The changes were apparently enough to get the White House to back down from its veto threat, notwithstanding FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony Wednesday that the bill could still interfere with counterterrorism operations.

A statement from the White House press office states that “As a result of these changes, we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the Presidents ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the Presidents senior advisors will not recommend a veto.” The statement continues, “However, if in the process of implementing this law we determine that it will negatively impact our counterterrorism professionals and undercut our commitment to the rule of law, we expect that the authors of these provisions will work quickly and tirelessly to correct these problems.” Sure, the bill could undermine the rule of law and make Americans less safe, but it’s not like Congress has ever had a hard time handling urgent problems in a timely manner. 

This morning I wrote that by making the mandatory military detention provisions mandatory in name only, the Senate had offered the administration an opportunity to see how seriously it takes its own rhetoric on civil liberties. The administration had said that the military detention provisions of an earlier version of the NDAA were “inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.”

The revised NDAA is still inconsistent with that fundamental American principle. But the administration has decided that fundamental American principles aren’t actually worth vetoing the bill over. 

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.