May 15, 2009

Theoretically, the Obama administration could bring some integrity to the process. But practically speaking? I think the tribunals are too tainted to retain, and I don't pretend to understand why this is happening:

WASHINGTON — - The Obama administration will announce plans Friday to revive the Bush-era military commission system for prosecuting accused terrorists, current and former officials said, reversing a presidential campaign pledge to rely instead on federal courts and the traditional military justice system.

Word of the imminent decision infuriated human rights groups, who argued that any trials under the system created by former President George W. Bush would be widely viewed as tainted and said the Obama administration was duplicating the mistakes of former administration.

[...] White House officials insisted that Obama was not overturning a campaign vow. The president "never promised to abolish" military commissions, an administration official said. However, during his campaign Obama repeatedly called for change.

[...] The administration still intends to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in federal courts, as Obama had pledged. But officials have concluded that a small number of detainees can be tried only in the military commissions, said a U.S. official familiar with the changes, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of Friday's announcement.

The administration on Friday also will outline major changes to the military commission system that will be used in future trials.

Gabor Rona, the international legal director of Human Rights First, said military commission trials are unlikely to be seen as legitimate forms of justice.

"Everyone knows the military commissions have been a dismal failure," said Rona. "The results of the cases will be suspect around the world."

But Charles Stimson, a former Bush administration official who oversaw detainee affairs at the Pentagon, applauded Obama's proposal as one that would bring needed change to the military commission system while keeping it intact.

"It is a good start. The closer they get to courts-martial the better," Stimson said. "They should learn from the mistakes the Bush administration made, then proudly defend the military commissions.


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