With Obama’s 120 day “pause” on military commissions about to expire on May 20th, and detainees still languishing away in the Cuban facility, the POTUS is preparing first to buy a vowel… er, more time.
Task #1 is to punt…. kick the issue further down the field by asking for another 90 day extension. While the first thought is that Obama – renowned for his penchant for voting “present” and straddling fences when pressed on issues – is just trying to make up his mind about the course of action, it’s actually necessary to comply with the mandate that the CIC must provide Congress with 60 days’ notice of any rule changes in the way the commissions function. And… assuming he doesn’t change his mind in the next 30 days… he’s doing just that. Revamping the military commission with a twist.
The most recent rumblings with details of “da plan” come via WaPo’s Peter Finn today…
The Obama administration is preparing to revive the system of military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under new rules that would offer terrorism suspects greater legal protections, government officials said.
The rules would block the use of evidence obtained from coercive interrogations, tighten the admissibility of hearsay testimony and allow detainees greater freedom to choose their attorneys, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.~~~
Under the administration’s rule changes, hearsay evidence would be admissible if a judge determines it is reliable, officials said. That provision would allow the government to introduce some intelligence material that would ordinarily be barred in federal court or military courts martial, the officials said. There is precedent for admitting hearsay evidence in international courts, including at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.~~~
The Obama administration’s plan to reinstate the commissions with modifications reflects the fear that some cases would fail in federal courts or in standard military legal settings.
“It looks a lot more difficult now than it did on Jan. 20,” said one government official.
This kinder/gentler version of military trials isn’t winning the hearts and minds of the ACLU, who vows to meet any attempt to put a nicer face on military trials with legal challenge.
“This is an extraordinary development, and it’s going to tarnish the image of American justice again,” said Tom Parker, a counterterrorism specialist at Amnesty International.~~~
Civil liberties advocates, who insist that federal courts can handle terrorism cases, vowed to challenge any new process.
“We’ll litigate this before they can proceed, absolutely,” said Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Any effort to tinker with military commissions would be an enormous mistake. There is no way to fix a flawed process that has not rendered justice.”~~~
Romero said allowing hearsay in any U.S. courtroom is a “greater travesty than Bush administration justice.”
In the meantime, it should come as no surprise that both sides of the aisle are trading barbs and criticisms via their respective party Saturday radio addresses.
The summary? The GOP calls closing Gitmo and releasing detainees “dangerous”. For the Dems, it’s all about America’s “reputation” and saving face.
Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, delivering the Republicans’ weekly radio and Internet address, said Saturday that Obama’s plan “is a dangerous case of putting symbolism over security,” and he called on the president to disclose where the terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay will be sent.
“The American people have a right to know exactly what the White House plans to do with these terrorists,” said Bond, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Americans don’t want these terrorists in their neighborhood.”
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., told FOX News that Obama should keep the prison open.
“These are very dangerous people,” he said. “I think the president is caving into world opinion and he’s attempting to fulfill a campaign pledge without having any real idea what the consequences are or where these detainees are going to go.”
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., countered the Republican criticisms in an opinion article Saturday in the Washington Post. Moran noted that both Obama and Sen. John McCain pledged on the presidential campaign trail last year to close the prison because they realized detaining suspects indefinitely had damaged America’s reputation around the world and fueled “terrorist recruitment and anti-American sentiment.”
“While closing Guantanamo would go a long way toward removing this stain on our national character, the decision to do so was the easy part,” he wrote. “What to do with the detainees who remain of the more than 700 sent there since 2001 is much more difficult.”
Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., who is considering challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in next year’s Democratic primary, told FOX News that the president could have kept Guantanamo opened as long as due process and habeas corpus were instituted.
“But as a symbol around the world, the decision was made which I can support to close it,” he said. “Now what do we do with the detainees? The issue now is how do we abjudicate under due process, making sure they’re prosecuted appropriately?”
Obama… still busy trying to find homes for the Gitmo grad homeless… was reported to have a 25-minute discussion with Yemen’s President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, about the fate of about 100 Yemenis. Saleh wants them to come home to Yemen. Obama wants to send them to a Saudi terrorist rehabilitation school. [Uh, why does employer mandated “anger management” and “tolerance” classes come to mind here….]
Then, of course, there’s those Chinese Muslim Uighurs that a US District Court judge ordered freed. The US can’t and won’t send them back to China as they may be waterboarded… er, tortured… or perhaps executed.
US officials have been pressuring Germany to absorb about 9 of them. But the Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, is saying “hold your camels there, Abdul…”. They aren’t so pleased with the data they have on these new stellar citizens they are supposed to welcome.
“The information that we’ve received so far from Washington is insufficient for us to take a decision on whether to accept any one of the cases,” Schaueble told the paper.
The minister said a number of concerns needed to be addressed before Germany could take a decision on whether to accept the detainees.
“First, are we sure that these people do not pose a threat because this is a worry of many citizens here. Second, why can’t the United States take them on? And third, do they have a link to Germany?” he said.
The Bavarian Interior Minister, Joachim Herrmann, certainly can’t be accused of being so politically correct when wording his displeasure.
Herrmann was quoted as saying that security intelligence showed seven of the nine Uighurs reportedly being considered for resettlement in Germany had been trained in camps of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and had contacts to militant Islamist organisations.
“We don’t need those kind of people in Germany,” Hermann told the newspaper, adding that US demands were unreasonable.
It was just two days ago that AG Eric Holder was in the hot seat, fielding questions from Congress representatives over the future of these very detainees. At that time, Holder vowed the Obama admin had no intention of allowing “terrorists” to walk the streets of the country.
ERIC HOLDER: A transfer or release of these detainees will only happen in those instances where we are convinced that that can be done in a way that the communities that receive them — overseas, with our allies — will not have any impact on the safety of the place that is receiving — that is receiving them.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, R-Ala.: Excuse me a minute. Excuse me. Are you saying that, one, you believe you have the legal authority to bring terrorists into this country and disperse them around the country in the communities?
ERIC HOLDER: What I’m saying is that, with regard to those who you would describe as terrorists, we would not bring them into this country and release them, anybody who we consider to be a terrorist.
Incredible. Another one of those “meaning of ‘is’… is” moments .. anybody who *we* consider to be a terrorist. I might remind everyone at the heart of the waterboarding debate is the miles of disagreement between those who consider waterboarding as torture, and those who do not.
We are now faced with the same connundrum… what is a “terrorist” in the eyes of the Obama admin? In fact, in light of “terrorism” now no longer an acceptable term of useage in the PC sensitive WH – substituted with “man caused disaster” – do we even have “terrorists” anymore? Or would they be the “man causing the disaster”…?
Susan Baker Manning, lawyer for Uighur Guantanamo detainees, is happy to clear that up for the admin, stating:
The perception that these men are somehow terrorists is just flat wrong. They were cleared by the military in 2003, they have been exonerated by the courts, and the Bush administration has conceded that they’re not enemy combatants.
These men are not, and they never were terrorists. So any sort of fear that people might have is just based on a misperception, and we hope to correct that perception.
In support, Alim Seytoff of the Uyghur American Association, assures the Congress members that these detainees already have Uyghur families who are willing to take them in.
uh huh… better guard the butter knives. These guys were trained in camps for warfare, and have ties to jihad movements. Or does Ms. Manning and these families, opening their homes to the detainees, think they just visited an East Turkestan Muslim theme park??
All in all, Obama – flush with power and confident in his Senate briefing knowledge – may rue his impulsive decision to close Gitmo. What he designed to be a bellwether moment… heralding a new, morally conscious, US under his command and thrilling the O’faithful… is actually turning into a quagmire in the public opinion battlefield. The NIMBY ‘tude is alive and well… the public loves the thought of being loved and respected in the int’l eyes, but they sure don’t want these guys running loose in the states.
Now… with the military commissions being reinstated, Gitmo grads still homeless and unwanted by most other nations, the ACLU on the warpath against Obama’s proposed plan, and the int’l community looking askance at Obama’s backtracking with the military commissions… I’d say one of Obama’s first decisions as Commander in Chief is pretty much an abyss of legal and security chaos, and well on the road to being a failure.
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.