Thursday :: May 14, 2009

Obama To Continue Military Commissions


by Turkana

Jeralyn links this story from the Associated Press:

President Barack Obama will restart Bush-era military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a fiercely disputed trial system he once denounced but with new legal protections for terror suspects, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Obama suspended the tribunals within hours of taking office in January, ordering a review but stopping short of abandoning President George W. Bush's strategy of prosecuting suspected terrorists.

I wish I could say this was a surprise. As Glenn Greenwald wrote, yesterday:

It's difficult to react much to Obama's complete reversal today of his own prior decision to release photographs depicting extreme detainee abuse by the United States. He's left no doubt that this is what he does: ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has taken one extreme step after the next to keep concealed both the details and the evidence of Bush's crimes, including rendition, torture and warrantless eavesdropping.

And Joan Walsh on yesterday's outrage:

I could laugh at Cheney if I thought his worldview had been defeated; too much of it lives on, as Obama breaks another campaign promise and sides with the architects of the surveillance state. He's flip-flopped on FISA and the photos and other issues in between, and they've all had one thing in common: His decisions ultimately protect those who broke the law to spy and torture. Obama can still do the right thing on torture prosecutions, but I'm losing faith that he will.

And today, yet again, President Obama simply isn't willing to completely break from Bush-Cheney.

The AP says the rule changes will include:

_Restrictions on hearsay evidence that can be used in court against the detainees.

_A ban on all evidence obtained through cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This would include statements given from detainees who were subjected to waterboarding.

_Giving detainees greater leeway in choosing their own military counsel.

_Protecting detainees who refuse to testify from legal sanctions or other court prejudices.

The Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

"The Obama administration's purported plans to resuscitate the Guantánamo military commissions and ship them onto American soil is fatally flawed. The military commissions are built on unconstitutional premises and designed to ensure convictions, not provide fair trials. Reducing some but not all of the flaws of the tribunals so that they are 'less offensive' is not acceptable; there is no such thing as 'due process light.' Our justice system depends upon basic principles of fairness and transparency and once they are compromised even a little, they are rendered meaningless.

"Our criminal justice system is more than equipped to handle terrorism cases while simultaneously protecting national security evidence and ensuring fundamental rights. The government has a wide range of broadly written federal laws at its disposal, and if federal prosecutors are convinced that detainees are guilty and too dangerous to release, it should have gathered enough untainted and admissible evidence by now to prosecute them under those laws. What is clear is that we cannot attempt to revive a fundamentally unsound system by merely 'tweaking' the violations of our most important principles in order to accommodate the Bush administration’s egregious torture policies."

Jeralyn also links to the Center for Constitutional Rights. I have nothing more to add.

Turkana :: 8:18 PM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!