Presidential Veto Threatened as Defense Spending Bill Makes Way to Senate Floor
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today praised the Obama Administration for its position that troubling language contained within the current defense spending bill could be the basis for a Presidential veto of the legislation. At issue are provisions that would authorize the government to imprison people without proof, indefinitely, merely on suspicion of criminality. In addition, the bill as written would potentially eviscerate the crucial role of the FBI and local law enforcement in domestic counterterrorism operations by mandating military custody for a large category of terrorism suspects. “America does not want the President fighting terrorism with one hand tied behind his back,” Human Rights First’s Raha Wala said. “The Senate should strip the controversial detainee provisions from the Senate defense bill in order to ensure that the bill does not weaken our counterterrorism response.” Ahead of the administration’s announcement, General Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991-1994, and General Charles Krulak, commander of the U.S. Marine Corps from 1995-1999, urged President Obama to veto defense spending legislation that would undermine national security. The two Generals, who co-chair a nonpartisan group of 40 retired generals and admirals concerned about U.S. policy regarding enemy prisoner treatment and detention, noted, “We appreciate that our leaders are constantly striving to make America more secure, but in doing so, we must be careful not to overreact and overreach, resulting in policies that will do more harm than good. At the very least, these provisions deserve public debate informed by evidence rather than agreed to behind closed doors and tucked into a bill as important as our national defense bill.” Earlier this week, similar concerns were raised by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The full Senate will soon consider the defense bill that came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.