Closing Gitmo

Obama is apparently sticking to his Sunday claim that it could take more than 100 days to shutter America's Shame. But after an outcry from civil li

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Obama is apparently sticking to his Sunday claim that it could take more than 100 days to shutter America's Shame. But after an outcry from civil liberties groups, human rights advocates and many of his own supporters he is now also saying (or leaking, to be precise) that he'll give the order to begin that process on day one of his presidency.

Not only that, but the leaks suggest Obama has made some worthwhile decisions about the nature of that closure process.

People who have discussed the issues with transition officials in recent weeks said it appeared that the broad outlines of plans for the detention camp were taking shape. They said transition officials appeared committed to ordering an immediate suspension of the Bush administration’s military commissions system for trying detainees.

In addition, people who have conferred with transition officials said the incoming administration appeared to have rejected a proposal to seek a new law authorizing indefinite detention inside the United States. The Bush administration has insisted that such a measure is necessary to close the Guantánamo camp and bring some detainees to the United States.

... In formulating their policy in recent weeks, Obama transition officials have consulted with a variety of authorities on legal and human rights and with military experts. Several of those experts said the officials had expressed great interest in alternatives to the military commission system, like trying detainees in federal courts, and appeared to have grown hostile to proposals like an indefinite detention law.

I hope that's right and wish the Obama camp would just say so outright. I will be watching, along with many others. Glenn Greenwald writes:

It's critical that Obama -- and the rest of the political establishment -- hear loud objections, not reverential silence, when he flirts with ideas like the ones he suggested on Sunday. This dynamic prevails with all political issues. Where political pressure comes only from one side, that is the side that wins -- period.

But now I'm more hopeful that America will cast off the shame of Gitmo and all the illegal acts that surrounded it. The way to go was always to declare those captured either military POWs or civilian prisoners, then try them in either courts martial or federal courts accordingly - with the full panoply of law. That the Bush administration thought it could be a clever-clogs and just sidestep international norms, while simultaneously tainting every possible prosecution with charges of illegal arrest, rendition and detention as well as prisoner abuse or outright torture should be seen as another of that administration's crimes. Obstruction of justice. That in a normal legal environment some dangerous people will likely be freed because of the Bush administration's arrogant belief in its own ability to re-write law to suit itself is rightly something to blame on Bush and his coterie - yet if it happens the extreme right will blame it on Obama.

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