ABC News reporter Jake Tapper questioned White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday about controversial provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
The $662 billion defense spending bill contained controversial sections that required terrorism suspects to be detained by the military without trial, regardless of where they were captured. Proponents of the bill claimed it merely clarified existing law, but human rights advocates and others said the provisions were unconstitutional and allowed the military detention of American citizens without trial.
“Is President Obama doing anything to rescind this provision that gives the military this new power?” Tapper asked Carney.
“I have talked about it in the past. But as you know, we had concerns with the legislation as it was written,” Carney responded.
“We worked with the authors of the legislation, and changes were made that allowed the president to sign the bill,” he continued. “And we have made clear, in the signing of the legislation and in our discussions afterwards, that the president retains the flexibility that he believes is essential for the commander in chief to make sure that our people in the field have all the tools necessary to do their job and that make sure that we are handling these matters in a way that are consistent with our values. So we will implement the law in a way that makes that achievable.”
While signing the bill on December 31, Obama issued a statement in which he pledged that the new laws would not violate Americans’ constitutional rights. But human rights advocates said Obama’s signing statement did not prevent future administrations from abusing the law.
But when Tapper pressed Carney to explain whether the new laws allowed the military detention of American citizens without trial, Carney dodged the question again.
“I’m not talking about how he’s going to implement it,” Tapper said. “I’m just talking about the law as it stands on the books.”
“Well, I understand that,” Carney replied. “And we’ve made clear what our position is on how it needs to be implemented in a way that’s consistent with our values, in a way that — and in a way that maintains maximum flexibility for our operators in the field.”