President Barack Obama today defended his decision to close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and promptly raised more serious concerns for civil libertarians. In his speech, Obama announced that the country’s “moral authority” demanded closure but then said that his lawyers were working new policies to hold certain detainees indefinitely without trial.
Obama broke the detainees into five categories. He is to be commended for deciding to send some detainees to federal court for a true and legitimate trial. However, he still refused to take the rule of law to its full conclusion. With one category, he isolated to “detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted, yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.” He promised “[w]e are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.” Of course, this would mean holding people in violation of domestic and international law — precisely what George Bush did. It is part of the Administration’s effort to appear principled by doing an unprincipled thing. The reason that we cannot try these individuals is because they would win. The solution, according to both Bush and Obama, is not to give them a trial.
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