White House drops veto threat over detainee legislation
December 14th, 2011
03:58 PM ET

White House drops veto threat over detainee legislation

By Adam Levine

After initially threatening a veto, the White House has issued a statement saying changes made by the House and Senate regarding controversial detainee provisions are sufficient and advisors will no longer advise the president to veto the 2012 Defense Authorization bill if it passes the House and Senate.

The detainee provision sought to codify rules that would mandate that the military would hold in custody and try terror suspects.  That concerned the White House and many lawmakers who think the responsibility belongs, in part, to law enforcement agencies and the federal courts and warned that Americans could possibly be detained indefinitely by the military.

The White House reversal comes on the same day that the FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee hearing that while some of the changes are helpful, the provisions regarding what happens at the time of an arrest "lack clarity" and did not address all of his concerns about the ability to gain cooperation after an arrest.

"It lacks clarity with regard to what happens if - we had a case in Lackawanna, New York, and an arrest has to be made there and there's no military within several hundred miles," Mueller said.

Mueller said it is an issue too when FBI and military can both be on the scene.

"My concern is that you do not want to have FBI agents and military showing up at the scene at the same time on a covered person or with a covered person. There may be some uncovered persons there with some uncertainty as to who has the role and who is gonna do what," Mueller noted.

Mueller said he understands the president could waive the provision if need be and procedures will be established but "procedures can change. Procedures can be controversial."

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the legislation includes a "national security waiver" that allow the president to transfer a suspect from military to civilian custody if he chooses.

The legislators also agreed on tough sanctions language for the Iranian Central Bank, aimed at punishing Iran for its nuclear program. The White House had expressed opposition to that provision as well, but it received broad support in Congress.

The measure "will put real additional pressure on the Iranians so they are going to pay a bigger and bigger price, if they continue to move towards nuclear weapons," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In addition, legislators agreed to tough new restrictions on Pakistan to ensure that country is not participating in the manufacture and transport of improvised explosive devices - those hidden bombs that have caused havoc for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

"We've had some shaky relations with Pakistan lately. We need them, and they need us," said Rep. Buck McKeon, R-California, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "We have frozen some of the money that we will be sending to Pakistan until they offer more assurances, more help in this area of ... fertilizer and the things that go into making IEDs."

Here's the White House explanation of the change:

"We have been clear that “any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.” After intensive engagement by senior administration officials and the President himself, the Administration has succeeded in prompting the authors of the detainee provisions to make several important changes, including the removal of problematic provisions. While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counterterrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the President additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength. This legislation authorizes critical funding for military personnel overseas, and its passage sends an important signal that Congress supports our efforts as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan lead while ensuring that our military can meet the challenges of the 21st century.

As a result of these changes, we have concluded that the language does not challenge or constrain the President’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people, and the President’s senior advisors will not recommend a veto. 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."

- Ted Barrett contributed to this report

soundoff (72 Responses)
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  10. comecleanOK

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish paranoia, revoke civil rights, spy on citizens and incarcerate any citizen who we think could possibly usurp the ruling elite. Time for a Constitutional ammendment to reflect the true state of affairs.

    December 21, 2011 at 10:40 am | Reply
  11. American Citizen

    I feel kind of scared by this bill... I would really feel grateful if our government really valued respect and peace for our people more. I would really feel grateful if our government valued peace, diplomacy, and communication more in dealing with our own people and people around the world.

    Spread the message!

    December 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  12. Just another American

    I have no clue why people continue to live in fear. JUST LIVE! Life is way to short...I'm so confused at what is going on in capital hill that I finally just quit. I have a wonderful family, and a great selection of friends to tend to. I know one thing. Whatever law that they pass will affect them, their children, and their children's children. Every law passed should be evaluated fairly and upheld to the highest standards. Times are hard right now. People are either angry, pissed, or depressed. What we need to do is help one another out in understanding what is happening instead of bickering amongst each other. If we dont, nothing will ever get solved. Every night I say a prayer that this country can somehow, someway get on the right track. I'm just hoping my prayers get answered before its too late.

    December 20, 2011 at 1:21 am | Reply
    • Brendan Polk


      December 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Reply
  13. c. j.

    Why some people celebrate this bill is beyond me. Oh great the president can intervene. Im sure whomever is sitting in the oval office will find plenty of time to putz around with crud like this. How much time does senator mccain think the president have on any given day to begin with? Thats assuming someone wrongfully arrested even has a chance of having their case brought before the president, since arresting authorities can tell the victim to "shut up" as senator graham likes to put it. When referencing the right to an attorney clause in the meranda. Pffft!

    December 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Reply
  14. american patriot

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
    Thomas Jefferson

    December 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Reply
  15. american patriot

    It is our duty still to endeavor to avoid war; but if it shall actually take place, no matter by whom brought on, we must defend ourselves. If our house be on fire, without inquiring whether it was fired from within or without, we must try to extinguish it.

    Thomas Jefferson

    December 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  16. American Citizen

    Bill of Rights is supreme law of the land. When two juridictions conflict, if a civilian is being wrongfully harmed by local law enforcement, the United States military can and will be there to defend his or her life. The United States Armed Forces defends the Constitution of the United States and its citizenry from all forms of domestic terror even from the police. This is especially true when the FBI fails that civilian and invalidates a situation or minimizes its importance when improper deadly force is used or wrongful detainment is effected with no reasonable suspicion and no probable cause. These incidents are increasing and have been since 9/11. The provisions mentioned within this article stated by Senator John McCain infer intrusions into constitutional protections. The FBI needs to be particularly careful if or when boundaries of due process are crossed, and when in doubt if the US military arrives at the scene first because the FBI delayed or failed, the US military may proceed to defend the life of that civilian harmed. It is time to reestablish these boundaries of power. The FBI is not the United States military. The Department of Homeland Security – is by a four corner legal theory – not constitutional and certainly not a branch of the United States government. It is intrusive, encroaches into civil rights and fails to do much of anything except spy on innocent Americans with no cause. This agency should be immediately dismantled. It was not required in the first place, and its supporters have attempted to usurp the authority and purpose of our United States National Guard.

    December 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  17. Takeanotherlook

    Any loosely organized Militia, Skeet hunting group, any organized hunting party could be deemed to be terrorist right here in the Good Old USA. Well I guess us farmer types are losing our rights to the city slickers who write these laws. "The Revolution wont be Televised" isn't that what some joker said back in the 70's.. they have taken TV away to us rural folks either you buy cable or buy satellite if you want TV we are all too far from the cities to get TV even with an antenna.. So we are being Taxed with that. Us rural folks are too far from the cities for DSL? Cable or Internet access so we must pay More for Satellite service or Mobile Broadband Card or Wifi which is above 69. a month so we are being taxed on that. We have to buy Water from the municipalities because our groundwater is polluted by the corporations so we have to pay tax on that. We have to pay these Universals Subscriber fees and other fees on our phone bills , Tv Bills, and every other utility bill including electricity from coops. So thats another Tax. Aren't we being Taxed Enuf already? When does it stop? When we get organized and get a militia to protect ourselves? Or when we get organized to say we are Taxed EnUF Already?

    December 16, 2011 at 2:36 am | Reply
    • American Citizen

      You have a United States National Guard that is a part of the United States Army. That National Guard is your organized militia. They are not "sandbaggers". Their purpose is to defend the citizenry from terror, both foreign and domestic. Supporters of the DHS have attempted to usurp the role of the National Guard to diminish its importance and protections of citizens that have actually been harmed by the Dept. of Homeland Security including TSA – where normally, if it were a foreign party that acted with the conduct of the TSA, under any other presidential administration, they would have been taken into custody immediately by the US National Guard and detained at Guantanamo Bay Prison for investigation and inquiry.

      We have persons in Washington, DC that have caused collateral damage to the authority of the Constitution of the United States and diminished or reduced the importance of the Bill of Rights by deliberately terrorizing a portion of American civilians to force their will onto the public.

      The only way to take this nation back is to re-emphasize the role of our members of the US National Guard and speak it to Congress before they tear our founding documents and rip them to shreds.

      December 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Reply
  18. JoeyS

    Say goodbye to your civil rights. So much for the 6th & 8th Amendments of the US Constitution. Our fore fathers are rolling over in their graves.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  19. Gopherit

    It appears that the only changes were about which agency is supposed to arrive at any scene to take someone into custody. Also apparently no changes were made which would guarantee that a U.S. citizen's Constitutional rights are to be preserved, nor would forbid indefinite detainment and without charge. The U.S. is marching headlong into being a dictatorship.

    December 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Reply
    • JoeyS

      So true and so terrible!

      December 15, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  20. bann america

    Welcome Nazi America!

    December 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  21. Losingthisbattle

    The parallels between now and pre-WWII are phenomenal.

    December 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Reply
    • Music Boy

      Is there any information (on the web, a book) that could help me understand this more throughly?

      December 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  22. michaelfury


    December 15, 2011 at 9:59 am | Reply
  23. LogicRules

    "....then there was no one left to speak out for me." Glad I'm not the only one freaked out by this...vote Ron Paul 2012!

    December 15, 2011 at 1:35 am | Reply
    • John

      i with R Paul with no matter what. lol

      December 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  24. Java McPhearson

    Up until now, the Military could only detain citizens during active Military Operations and when no other remedy exists. Now, it seems that the US is declared a battlefield and there is a de-facto Military Operation ongoing in the US at all times. Step out of line, and disappear to the Gulag Hotel, no questions asked.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:45 am | Reply
  25. robertk

    What would Ron Paul Do? Would he allow this?

    December 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Reply
    • John

      Ran Paul for 2012 no matter what.

      December 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Reply
  26. The R.O.T.P.

    that place has more crows flying around it than a dump.....

    December 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  27. Dreamer96

    People are getting paranoid that big brother will hull all of us away for what we say, well maybe...

    but if you think this is something new you are not reading your history....we have been, and have had to, collect data on our citizens since before this country even became a country...and for the most part it's worked okay...

    I would suggest the next time you are surfing the web you take a minute and view the source code of the web pages and maybe even print them out...you may find that people have access to you name, address, gender, birth date so age....it is possible and maybe even necessary....

    Much like our founding fathers would send someone into a town who would sit in the local tavern and listen to the locals talk of politics..or start a business and listen to local gossip
    ..remember your Shakespeare and King Lear...

    December 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  28. Andrew

    This is very murky water we're wading in. If you're going to detain American citizens and suspend Magna Carta, then you'd better start detaining, because you've overstepped your bounds and you will have a f#@%ing civil war on your hands.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Reply
    • Andrew

      Then, I will have to apologize to all the militias, which will be a very, very weird day.

      December 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Reply
  29. Unbelievable

    Isn't this interesting? Everyone quoted in the story – the president, senators from both parties, FBI, and those represented – DoD, NSA, CIA, agree that the only issue here is a formal one – who exactly will be able to detain citizens indefinitely? Will the military and civilian agencies step on each others toes as they lock us away, denied legal representation, with no charges given? And CNN reports this with a straight face, like Nero fiddling as Rome burned.

    December 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  30. cephalis

    We need an 'Arab Spring," here in the good old USA.

    December 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Reply
    • mickey1313

      agreed, they all need to read the declairation of indipenpance and remember we are the boss, (citizens) they (government) are the employees.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Reply
  31. Dave A.

    Lots of words words words.. Just a matter of time until ANYONE CAN GET ARRESTED AND DISAPPEAR FOR GOOD without a trial.. ITS COMING .. dont kid yourself... Say Goodbye to what once made the US a great country.. THANK you Corporations and the RepubliCON party!!

    December 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Reply
    • mickey1313

      9/11 changed everything...into 1984, we are in Orwillian times.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Reply
      • michaelfury


        December 15, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  32. Geoff

    What happened CNN? Did your cronies finally give you permission to post something about the NDAA; now that they've been given the stamp of approval to phase in Martial Law. I'm curious as to what will now happen to Specialist William Millay who was arrested on espionage charges in November. MSM shot their mouth off about this story when it first occurred, but hasn't published any since when it was discovered that he was simply warning his loved ones about exactly what is inevitably going to happen in America when this bill is passed. 2012(Economic Collapse) + Rioting = Martial Law/Fascist State.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Reply
    • Sad American

      We have been living in an increasingly fascist state for decades, it has simply reached a new peak recently. Citizens United FOR THE LOSS.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  33. KeithinAustin

    If Obama and his Liberal minions were really interested in compromise, they would make some legitimate SPENDING CUTS to pay for the extension of the Corporate Tax holiday. Unfortunately, it's just not in Barry's genes!

    December 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Reply
    • Sad American

      Our country is about to be plunged into a authoritarian fascist dictatorship and the biggest concern you have is for some bullshit budget and taking an arbitrary side in partisan politics?

      Hi, I've been dying to meet you...I'm Roger, you must be The Problem. I've heard so much about you.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Reply
    • mickey1313

      the compermise should be a compleate cut to all military outside the US, and all forgen aid.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  34. Sad American

    I cannot believe what I have seen happen to America in only 10 years.

    The terrorists have won. 10 years ago. We've just been letting them win more and more every passing day.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Reply
    • Disillusioned

      I hear you. The national eagle is locked in a cage, indefinitely.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Reply
    • Chitown Jason

      It's true. They won. "Death to America" and the freedoms that America had are gone.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Reply
    • mickey1313

      just like the government has always wanted. Ever since the emergance of civil rights and the end of the cold war the powers that be have been waiting to put all of us, the citizens, in cages of fear again. 1984 and atlas shrugged, we are there.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  35. American Minorities

    The End of Democracy, Now Enter The Days of The King.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  36. theviennacafe

    Nice that there is no concern for the constitutional, human, or civil rights.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Reply
    • mickey1313

      the powers that be have made it a crime so say such things in public. we are in germany pre ww2.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Reply
      • IreneW

        "Ominous Parallels" indeed!

        December 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |

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