Wednesday, March 9, 2011

President Obama Caves In On Protecting Constitutional Rights of Military Prisoners and Keeps Guantanamo Bay Prison Open


As usual a pathetic combination of the Republican right's relentless bullying and the President's typically inept, passive, and weak response to the reactionary demands of his (and our) political enemies once again overturns the basic rule of law and the legal rights of military prisoners mandated by the Constitution. So as even the NY Times admits, a bipartisan consensus of political cowardice and rank stupidity wins out over any rational or moral adherence to justice or real national security. Welcome to the ongoing travesty of political and moral "leadership" in Washington...


News in Brief: Obama Restarts Guantanamo Trials, and More ...

Nadia Prupis | Tuesday 08 March 2011

Obama Restarts Guantanamo Trials

President Obama has signed an executive order to indefinitely detain prisoners at the military jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Democracy Now! reports. Along with detainment, the White House has also authorized new military commissions at the base, resuming a process that Obama had previously frozen. On his second day in office, Obama had ordered for Guantanamo to be closed. According to Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the newest announcement is a sign that Guantanamo will stay open "for as far as we can see, because if in fact you can transfer the prisoners, you do try them, then you'll have to put them some place if you convict them."



March 8, 2011

The Prison That Won’t Go Away

The prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has long been the embodiment of Bush-era arrogance and lawlessness, and Barack Obama raised the hopes of millions around the world in 2008 when he campaigned on the promise of closing it. On Monday, that promise crumbled, the victim of Congressional spinelessness and President Obama’s inability to create political support for a way out of the moral quagmire created by his predecessor.

The president announced that military commission trials for detainees would resume at Guantánamo after a two-year suspension. That became inevitable in December after members of Congress from both parties, in an act of notable political cowardice, banned moving those trials to the United States. The ban, inserted in a needed defense bill, also makes it virtually impossible to release prisoners to other countries willing to take them.

The White House says the president remains committed to closing Guantánamo, but, given the political cast of Congress, it seems likely that the prison camp will remain a scar on the nation’s conscience for years.

Beyond the important symbolism of closing the camp, the more substantive issue was the system of indefinite detention that took place there. The president’s decision to formalize that system, made official in Monday’s executive order, was largely his own. It applies to 47 prisoners who cannot be tried because the evidence against them was classified or improperly obtained (usually through torture) but who cannot be freed because they are considered a serious terrorist threat.

The executive order requires regular review of those prisoners by an independent panel and access to legal counsel never granted by the Bush administration.

These are improvements, as is the more obvious requirement that procedures comply with international laws that ban torture and other forms of inhumane treatment. But the Obama administration has still chosen to accept the concept of indefinite detention without trial, which represents a stain on American justice.

The president made that acceptance clear in a speech in May 2009. To some degree, he was forced into it by the Bush administration’s legacy of torture and abuse, which made some important cases impossible to prosecute. But the White House could have pushed harder to try some of these cases in the United States.

Last year, the administration essentially backed off its original fervor to try the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in New York City after encountering nearly unanimous opposition from the area’s Congressional delegation and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Most of those officials were Democrats, proving that groundless timidity is bipartisan.)

The torture has stopped, and it is good to know that this regrettable policy will not be applied to any future prisoners beyond the group of 47. Perhaps in the future, Congress will wake up and restore the rule of law to Guantánamo Bay, including the transfer of some prisoners to other countries. But, for now, the wound to the nation’s reputation remains unhealed.