Advancing a Free Society

The Administration’s SAP

Friday, November 18, 2011

Finally, the administration has spoken clearly, directly, and with direct references to consequences–a veto–about the detainee provisions of the NDAA. The White House’s Statement of Administration Policy on the Senate version of the DNA has none of the problems of its earlier statement about the House version of the bill. It distinguishes between big problems and little problems. It distinguishes between forests and trees. And it makes clear that the President will not take provisions like this lying down:

Broadly speaking, the detention provisions in this bill micromanage the work of our experienced counterterrorism professionals, including our military commanders, intelligence professionals, seasoned counterterrorism prosecutors, or other operatives in the field. These professionals have successfully led a Government-wide effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents over two consecutive Administrations. The Administration believes strongly that it would be a mistake for Congress to overrule or limit the tactical flexibility of our Nation’s counterterrorism professionals.

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.

Yesterday morning, before the statement came out, I told Adam Serwer of Mother Jones that if Obama could not convince Congress that he is prepared to use the NDAA as toilet paper, he would have no negotiating leverage and would have to live with genuinely destructive detainee affairs legislation. This statement–assuming it’s not a bluff–is a big step towards convincing the legislature that the presidency actually matters in discussions of detention policy.

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