Monday, December 21, 2009

Justifying Gitmo North

Yesterday I posted on a December 17, 2009 article published in Germany's Die Tageszeitung about the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to an Illinois prison. Today, the Los Angeles Times got around to examining the move and the problem of indefinite detention. Not exactly a scoop, eh?

President Obama began the year with a pledge to close the Guantanamo prison, and to restore due process and the core constitutional values that he said "made this country great."

But his administration has set out a multi-pronged legal policy for the remaining Guantanamo prisoners that bears a striking similarity to that of the final year of George W. Bush's presidency.

Some detainees could be held indefinitely without being charged, if they're deemed impossible to prosecute but too dangerous to release. Congress gave the president that power after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Bush and now the Obama administrations. Bush used that authority to capture and imprison people he determined were a danger to the nation.
[Emphasis added]

As I said yesterday, there's not much change evident in the Obama administration's stance on the issue. The White House will determine who is "impossible to prosecute but too dangerous to release," and it claims that Congress gave the president that authority.

To hold the detainees who are not being tried, Obama relies on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a memo describing the legal argument prepared by the Defense Department for members of the Illinois delegation in Congress.

Two things strike me about this paragraph. The first is that the legal memo was prepared by the Defense Department and not the Justice Department. Why? Did the Attorney General decide to take a pass on that task, perhaps because the theory involved is blatantly unconstitutional?

Second, apparently the current White House agrees with its predecessor that Congress can pass a law which overrides the US Constitution. For a man who taught Constitutional Law, President Obama sure has a funny view of our central founding document.

The White House claims that at this point in the case-by-case review of the remaining detainees there are no detainees in the "too dangerous to release" class, so the issue may be moot. Yeah, right. And I have this wonderful land in the Everglades that would be just perfect for a mega-mall. Even if none of the detainees fall into that class (and that is a big "if"), the fact that the President of the United States claims he has the authority to place people into that class is horrifying.

For over eight years this country has been reacting, badly, to a terrorist attack that pales besides the terrorism we have since committed in two nations in response to that despicable act. It's time for the jelly-kneed cowardice to end and for a return to the constitutional principles that are the only things exceptional about this nation.

That's the change I want. That's the change we should demand.

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Blogger Judith said...

One thing that freaks me out is that many acquaintances of mine who were rabidly anti-Bush because of Guantanamo and the invasion of Iraq & civil rights problems are now using the same arguments put forward to defend Bush: "oh the president has information we don't have" "oh that isn't what he means, he wouldn't abuse that power", "oh, maybe they are too dangerous to let out", etc. Once again, cult of personality overtops morals. Sickening.

1:56 PM  
OpenID arran said...

You're right, of course, Diane. We should. But we won't. We're too afraid. The Right has taken what used to be a brave country and turned into a nation of wusses terrified of tiny countries half the world away because they don't like us. We have been taught since Reagan that if somebody frightens us, the thing to do is lock them up and not worry about whether or not they're actually, you know, guilty of anything.

And Judith, "sickening" is a good word, tho I might go further myself, towards, say, "vomitous" or "pukey". Whatever happened to "the reality-based community"? Whose ox is it, anyway?

3:47 PM  

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