White House Caves on Defense Bill Veto Threat

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

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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. 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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