A Law Unto Himself: Obama Promises To Hold Some Detainees Without Trial

225px-official_portrait_of_barack_obamaPresident 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.

For the full story, click here.

67 thoughts on “A Law Unto Himself: Obama Promises To Hold Some Detainees Without Trial”

  1. There was a “suicide”? at Gitmo today. Here is the story found at Glenn Greenwald. Whooliebacon made a point about torture being locked up indefinitely. I believe this. Here is the story.

    “U.S. military officials say a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay has died of an “apparent suicide.”

    At the moment, the U.S. military is calling it an “apparent suicide” pending an autopsy. Though Salih is either the 4th or 5th Gitmo prisoner to kill himself, numerous others have continuously tried, including this year, using every means from hunger strikes to hanging…Although the Obama DOD earlier this year self-servingly announced that Guantanamo is in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions, there is ample evidence that suggests otherwise.

    Putting people in cages for life with no charges — thousands of miles from their homes — is inherently torturous. While Salih acknowledged fighting for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, there is no evidence that he ever engaged in or planned to engage in terrorist acts or acts of violence of any kind against the U.S. Apparently, though, he’s one of the Worst of the Worst we keep hearing about — Too Dangerous To Release even if we can’t charge him with any crime.

    Along those lines, Sen. Russ Feingold will hold a hearing a week from today, at 10:00 a.m., on Obama’s proposal for indefinite “preventive detention,” entitled “The Legal, Moral, and National Security Consequences of ‘Prolonged Detention'” (Feingold’s letter excoriating Obama’s proposal is here). Other Democrats, such as Rep. Jerry Nadler, have already announced they will oppose Obama’s detention policy. Closing Guantanamo obviously does nothing to solve these problems if the same system of indefinite detention without charges is simply transported to a new location. As today’s NYT article put it: “detainees lawyers, including those representing other Yemeni detainees, have been saying that many prisoners are desperate and that many are suicidal because they see no end to their detention.” It’s the system of indefinite detention with no trials, not the locale of the cage, that is so oppressive and destructive.”

  2. Here is an example of how the appearance of lawfulness is being used to detain men who should have been released due to innocence as determined by the supreme court. While we’re on the subject of empathy, why don’t we act both lawfully and with empathy here?:

    “Nothing gives lie to the idea that there is any semblance of due process for prisoners held at the US prison camp at Guantanamo more than the case of the 17 Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, who remain imprisoned despite being cleared for release and ordered freed by a federal judge.”


  3. It’s a cost of maintaining a constitutional democracy that sometimes dangerous people in custody who cannot be tried or convicted are and must be freed. But in a conventional war between the U.S. and another nation, it’s unquestioned that a country may detain an enemy combatant indefinitely–until exchanged or until the end of hostilities–usually a clearly defined event–irrespective of whether the individual is believed to have committed a crime. To me it follows that the constitutionality of the President’s preventive detention “Category 5″ should be judged by first addressing the question whether and to what extent the conflict between the international jihadist movement and our country partakes of the war characteristics accepted as justifying indefinite detention. Then, the differences in the nature of the conflicts need to be recognized and considered in guaranteeing the constitutional safeguards needed, including those that may not apply in the context of conventional wars between nations. This I believe is what the President is doing. I see this as consistent with applicable constitutional principles, and I agree with it.

  4. let us suppose that there is a group of persons that are known to be terrorists but ultimately cannot be proven legally beyond a reasonable doubt. in our own society here, we have numerous examples of people that are known criminal yet the justice system has been unable to bring them to justice till the proper time comes, if it does.

    john gotti comes to mind, how time and time again he was able to evade justice though the entire world knew of his deeds yet the law demanded proof. surely, i ask you all – what would be your solution if we hold persons of a similar sort.

    that is individuals known to be facilitators, financiers, commanders of al quaida yet we lack any hard evidence to prove our case before the law. now iam not here constructing some ridiculous hypothetical scenario but rather admitting the fact that the president stated that much. for i too share in the prevailing view that the rule of law must guide all actions. here, the bush administration failed us and the current president was elected with a view on erected such errors. yet we must not ignore this most salient reality – we might be holding people that we dont have hard evidence against yet we know of thier work.

    gotti – well the state of new york flipped his consiglieri and thus we exchanged his testimony for a lighter sentence. however, no one would suggest that al quaida is interested in doing any such thing for the government – thus we return to our original conundrum. what to do with such person. for we might all sing the praises of the rule of law – yet i for one, would gladly hold a few of these people indefinately even without charges

    perhaps i lack true liberal virtues, some might charge, yet i see no proper recourse. professor turley will surely speak of how the rule of law much always be held supreme and to that end i agree yet i ask of him to construct a proper scenario that would ensure safety while honoring the rule of law.

    what would you do with a terrorists, now some foot soldier but a known terrorist that is being held in guantanamo – yet the state lacks hard evidence to prove its case. would you propose that he be tried nonetheless and live by the not guilty decision or even a dismissal. would you feel good about yourself with the knowledge that atleast the rule of law triumphed even though you know this man is surely returning to bin laden’s arms. what must obama do – someone present a legal recourse.

  5. “They’re bad. We know they are bad. We’re scared if they get loose. We’ll keep them away from us.”

    This is the argument of children–not very bright or very brave children at that.

    I trust you are not referring to Obama as he is hardly a child, much less cowardly or brainless.

    He’s less off-course now than he was coming in, given what he’s inherited from the ‘Railroad’ Company and in spite of the recent incantations from the 3-D ghost camp of Dick n’Dubya n’Donald.

    With all the presidential power he’s so obnoxiously packin’, this should all be as easy as Ginger Snap Sweet Potato Pie or thrice clickin’ heels, despite incantations of Dubya Dick n’ Donald in 3-D.

    Alas, a conscience…

  6. Buddha,

    Raoul Duke: Circus Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday nights if the Nazis had won the war. This was the Sixth Reich.

Comments are closed.