Obama’s Rebranding of Gitmo Policy

When President Obama announced he would close the detention center at Guantanamo the reactions from liberals and conservatives were exactly what anyone could have expected. The left cheered it as a civil rights win while the right jeered it as a blow to the war on terror. It quickly became evident things would not be so black and white. With Obama announcing a continuation of the Gitmo detention without trial policy, “indefinite detention“, is Mr. President just re-naming Bush’s unpopular policy or is this the beginning of a new direction?

At this point, the terror suspects at Gitmo can’t just be turned loose. We have told the world these people had to be locked up, they are dangerous. If we turned them loose the world who knows these guys have done bad things will think we’re idiots. The terror suspects harbor malicious feelings toward the US. If they didn’t when they entered Gitmo they do now. Releasing these terror suspects after giving them time to fester would put them right back into the terror network to continue horrid acts against America and it’s allies.

Due civil process will just send some of the terror suspects right back out, as many of the cases against them wouldn’t hold up in a normal court of law. Sorry ACLU, philosophically we’d like to give everyone due process. Thanks to Bush, it’s too late for that. We’ve sown the seeds for a terrorist farm at Gitmo.

There is no choice at this point but bring Gitmo detainees to US prisons. The GOP reacted adversely to this, launching an ad campaign stating Gitmo detainees in the US will pretty much result in the complete collapse of life as we know it. Moderate heads don’t buy that hogwash.

from The Moderate Voice:

OK. I’ll take the bait. And while I’m at it, I’ll turn the video’s concluding question — “How does closing Guantanamo Bay make us safer” — back to the GOP and ask: “How does the act of keeping these prisoners at Guantanamo Bay make us safer?”

Other than miles of ocean, what distinguishes the Gitmo facility from military prisons on U.S. soil? Does the GOP believe the U.S. military is not competent enough to keep terrorists locked up in any facility other than Gitmo? Are we such cowards that we must house our enemies anywhere but here?

Seriously: I’m willing to be convinced. But rather than lowest-common-denominator tactics, could we please engage in an intelligent, fact-driven discussion of the merits of Gitmo versus all other facilities under U.S. control?

On top of all the questions raised by that post, there is one big hitch in the GOPs claims. There already are terror suspects in US prisons. According to the Washington Post (nod to Donklephant), there are terror suspects being held in Colorado and Ft. Leavenworth military prison. Though some detainees are from the 9/11 attacks, the terror suspects being held participated in events as far back as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Well these prisons seem to have been able to deal with the terror suspects so far. They are despicable characters, but they aren’t comic book supervillians.

When President Obama announced he would continue a policy of “indefinite detention” the far-left nearly exploded. Some leveled charges of Obama creating an “American gulag“. Others felt this whole lack of due process thing to be a little too Orwelian. Rachel Maddow was a bit PO’d. Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald writes that Obama’s proposal boils down to a few important points.

from Salon

1. “Preventive detention” allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally “dangerous” by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they “expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden” or “otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans”). That’s what “preventive” means: imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be “combatants.”

3. For those asserting that there are dangerous people who have not yet been given any trial and who Obama can’t possibly release, how do you know they are “dangerous” if they haven’t been tried? Is the Government’s accusation enough for you to assume it’s true?

4. By rather stark and extreme contrast, Obama is seeking preventive detention powers that are indefinite — meaning without any end, potentially permanent. There’s no time limit on the “preventive detention.” Compare that power to the proposal that caused such a political storm in Britain and what these other governments are empowered to do. The suggestion that indefinite preventive detention without charges is some sort of common or traditional scheme is clearly false.

6. Obama is saying the opposite[of due process]: in his scheme, it is the outcome that is constant (everyone ends up imprisoned), while the process varies and is determined by the Government (trials for some; military commissions for others; indefinite detention for the rest). The Government picks and chooses which process you get in order to ensure that it always wins. A more warped “system of justice” is hard to imagine.

Defenders of Obama’s decision claim that the civil rights violations of the Gitmo system bolster the direction the President is taking.

from Wash Post

“I don’t think that those reasons argue for ending the detention rationale; I think they argue for being a hell of a lot more careful with the detention rationale, for making sure that we minimize mistakes, that we don’t have erroneous long-term detentions,” Goldsmith said at a seminar this month with reporters at the Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia.

Obama said any system of detention “must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.” Goldsmith and other scholars have said such oversight could include annual or bi-annual reviews by a national security court in which the government’s burden of proof to extend detention increases over time.

I must admit, this detention system is a bit scary. For a history buff Obama’s proposal, and Gitmo itself, does have shades of the USSR, if the system were to be abused. Will this periodic review be enough to keep abuses to a minimum? Perhaps. Stronger checks should be put in place. That will be the only way to begin the shift away from the notorious Bush era policies.

I must ask this question: is change still going to come?

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