In a ceremony Wednesday, US President Barack Obama signed legislation authorizing the largest ever military budget, a gargantuan $680 billion for the Pentagon, including $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Thursday, he signed a spending bill funneling another $44 billion into the Department of Homeland Security, to strengthen the apparatus of state repression within the United States.
The back-to-back bill signings are a clear demonstration that Obama is extending and intensifying the program of militarism and attacks on democratic rights for which the Bush administration was deservedly hated, in the United States and worldwide.
Each of the bills contained provisions aimed at further restricting democratic rights. The Pentagon budget bill authorizes the use of military tribunals to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and others seized illegally, either overseas or within the US, as part of the “war on terror.” It also bars the release of Guantanamo prisoners—even those found completely innocent—into the United States. It prohibits bringing Guantanamo prisoners to trial on US soil without a 45-day advance notice to Congress.
The Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill effectively prohibits the release of photographs taken by US military personnel during torture sessions at US bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. It exempts these photos from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, under which the American Civil Liberties Union and several media outlets have filed suit in federal court. The exemption would apply, not just to the photos sought by the ACLU, but to any photos taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 to which the Pentagon has objections.
Obama signed the record Pentagon budget less than three weeks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
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