CAIRO - Giving civil liberties advocates a new year's shock, US president Barack Obama has signed a new bill that would keep Guantanamo Bay open and allow the military to indefinitely detain American citizens on suspicions of supporting terrorism.
"President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement cited by The Huffington Post.
His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.
Indefinite Detention' Law Angers Americans
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President Barack Obama signed the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, into law on Wednesday, January 2.
The law allows US administration to place certain terrorism suspects into military custody to stand without charge.
Obama's signature has significantly toned down his promises to reverse parts of the bill he objected to, including his own threat to veto it over prohibitions on closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
He even claimed that the need to pass the NDAA, which also sets the armed forces' $633 billion budget for the 2013 fiscal year, was simply "too great to ignore," according to a presidential signing statement released on Thursday.
"It's the second time that the president has promised to veto a piece of a very controversial national security legislation only to sign it," said Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
"He has a habit of promising resistance to national security initiatives that he ultimately ends up supporting and enabling."
Obama's signature caps an intense sequence of events for opponents of indefinite detention.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) introduced an amendment in December 2012 that would have forbid the government from using military force to indefinitely detain Americans without trial under the 2013 NDAA.
Although that provision, dubbed the Feinstein Amendment, passed the Senate unanimously, a select panel of lawmakers led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) stripped it from the final version of the NDAA.
Stain On US Forehead
The signing of NDAA killed supporter's predictions that Obama, freed of re-election concerns, would pursue a more progressive political course in his second term.
"The president seemed to have nothing to say about that," Buttar said.
"The whole process, quite frankly, was a reflection of the worst parts of Washington -- the institutional dysfunction, the lack of historical memory, the unwillingness to consider relatively limited reforms that would make these powers responsible and limited."
Outside of Congress, civil liberties groups are pushing forward with a lawsuit against the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA on the grounds that they are unconstitutional.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg denied their efforts to reinstate an injunction against indefinite detention on Dec. 14, but the case against the law is still proceeding in the Second Circuit Court.
Demonstrations and political pressure around Guantanamo would also continue.
Civil liberties groups argue that despite the provisions in the NDAA, the president may still be able to close the detention camp or at least free some of the inmates there "It's not encouraging that the President continues to be willing to tie his own hands when it comes to closing Guantanamo," Dixon Osburn, the director of Human Rights First's Law and Security Program, said in a statement.
"The injustice of Guantanamo continues to serve as a stain on American global leadership on human rights."
Driven by promises of closing Guantanamo Bay and ending anti-Muslim policies endorsed by the George W. Bush administration, Muslims overwhelmingly voted for Obama in the 2008 election.
But four years in the Oval Office, many of Obama's promises have been left unmet.
The Guantanamo Bay, in which hundreds of detainees are being held without trials, remains open.
In 2011, Obama signed into law a four-year extension of controversial anti-terror powers under Patriot Act.
The Obama administration has also continued policies seen targeting the Muslim community such as police surveillance on the minority and their worship places.
Obama has also adopted some controversial policies such as the secret kill list of terror suspects, which fuelled fears among many Americans.
The law had drawn fire for granting the government too much power and infringing on individual liberties.
Muslims and Arabs have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net