An article today by Charlie Savage in the New York Times looks at President Obama’s announcement of “waivers” related to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its provisions related to the open-ended military detention of suspects. It is noteworthy in two respects:
a) It manages to get through all 16 paragraphs while never once actually naming the National Defense Authorization Act explicitly, but only making oblique references to it.
b) It describes the law thusly:
The rule, imposed by Congress, applies only to a narrow category of terrorism suspects: those who are not American citizens, who are deemed to be part of Al Qaeda or its allies and who are suspected of participating in a terrorist plot against the United States or its allies.
Which is untrue. The first draft of the act explicitly exempted US citizens from military detention, but Sen. Carl Levin (D – MI) removed that exemption at the behest of the White House.
In the end, the “waivers” are another attempt by the president to assert his own power over detainees rather than to limit the potential impact of the open-ended detentions. The waivers don’t rule out military detention for anybody (not even American citizens) but instead just gives the Attorney General the power to make the final decision on whether or not they get access to civilian courts.