Obama Clarifies Position on Guantanamo Trials

It may have been too good to be true. Earlier today the news reported that Obama planned to close Guantanamo and try the detainees facing criminal charges in U.S. criminal courts or courts using the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Or, in a curious statement, in some kind of new court.

Not so fast. After the reports, Obama released a statement denying he was considering a new kind of court for the detainees, but that also said:

"....There is absolutely no truth to reports that a decision has been made about how and where to try the detainees, and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled," said Denis McDonough, a senior foreign policy adviser for the transition team, in a statement.

So, the good news is Obama's not planning on creating a new kind of court. The hiccup is he is not prepared to say today "how and where" the detainees will be tried. [More..]

Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU responds:

“Any effort by President-elect Obama's transition team and their advisors to develop new procedures to try the Guantánamo detainees is a distraction and a doomed effort. We have the best systems of justice in the world – either through the Uniform Code of Military Justice or through our criminal court system. President Bush made the terrible mistake of believing he could make up a new system of justice for terrorism cases and that experiment failed miserably.

Any attempt to secure convictions by diluting basic due process safeguards will have lasting implications that are unlikely to be confined to Guantánamo. If the Bush administration violated prisoners’ rights by torturing them in order to get a confession, no new law or legal system will fix that taint. If the only evidence against a Guantánamo detainee was obtained through torture, then there is no reliable evidence that can be used in an American court. A new legal system designed to get around that unfortunate legacy is destined for years of legal challenges by advocates who rightly believe that, under our system of justice, no one's rights are safe unless everyone's rights are protected.”

There's only one right answer here. Close Guantanamo on day 1 and try the detainees either in U.S. criminal courts or military courts operating under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

< Search Still On For Missing White House Emails | When You See 'Loophole,' You Know It's Bad Reporting >
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  • Display: Sort:
    Obama is clearly sensitive. . . (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by LarryInNYC on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:04:21 PM EST
    to the appearance of governing before taking office.  I think that's a fair concern.

    Also, I suspect he wants to take whatever action he takes on a sound and considered legal basis, with the input of the people who are going to have to defend and carry out his Administrations policy.

    Finally, he's probably concerned about the political fallout and wants this not to a as prominent a decision as his stimulus package or other less contentious policies.

    My thought exactly (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by jar137 on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:24:03 PM EST
    It is really inapropriate for Obama to start spouting off about what he will do upon inauguration.  Of course, it doesn't necessarily register with people because we have all accepted (wrongly) that Bush is AWOL once again.  It's Alabama all over again.  One of my peeves since the economic crisis is that there is no media discussion of W's complete absence of leadership during this crisis.  I imagine they take the view, oh, that's old news.  Everyone knows Bush is a lame duck.  I think they don't want to pile on, but this is why we get such horrible leadership.

    And here we go! (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Pepe on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:34:55 PM EST
    During his campaign Obama said this in Texas:

    "While we're at it," he said, "we're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus. ... We're going to lead by example _ by not just word but by deed. That's our vision for the future."

    Pretty straight forward. Nothing to guess about there. But now...

    He can't look soft on terrorism. So much for our standing in the world and "lead by example". More backpedaling which he is real good at.

    And he needs legal advice? I lost count of the 'He's a constitutional lawyer' argument we all heard throughout the campaign. Certainly in his quote above he seemed to know what habeas corpus was. In his boisterous quote above he was unequivocal.

    I hope the ACLU and everyone else (except of course the koolaid drinkers) keep the pressure on him to honor his words in the quote above.


    Or... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Slado on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:19:34 PM EST
    he's seen all the info now that he's been given the same information as the current administration and realizes these people are mean and not so easily delt with.

    Not that he will keep them in Cuba but I bet this isn't handled very quickly because honestly most of the country has a bigger concern for their pocket book.


    Yeah (none / 0) (#3)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:34:37 PM EST
    I think there are a lot issues moving forward- while a lot of people are undoubtedly innocent, there are some like say Khalid Sheik Mohammed who need to be dealt with but can not be tried now because due to torture we've basically corrupted the vast majority of evidence collected against them-- frankly I don't know what the Obama administration can do in cases such as that.

    Some people couch this as a (none / 0) (#9)
    by coigue on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:21:44 PM EST
    "keep Gitmo open or else increase extraordinary rendition"

    Clearly that is not the case.


    And in the meantime, Larry (none / 0) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:25:08 PM EST
    innocent people are literally going insane in there.

    Personally, I don't give a toot about Obama's appearance.  Gitmo needs to be ordered closed on day one and these people transferred out of there and into some kind of halfway humane imprisonment.

    This is not something to be hemming and hawing and stalling around and consulting experts ad nauseam.


    Back paddling fast number 1 (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by koshembos on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:45:56 PM EST

    Actually (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Steve M on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:59:58 PM EST
    this is not clarification, this is unclarification!

    If nothing else... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Dadler on Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 12:10:17 AM EST
    ...it seems the 2+ month lag between the new president being elected and being inaugurated is too long.  In this case, it will seem far, far, FAR longer than it ever has before.  Lame ducks are called such for a reason, and I think it's time to rethink the reasons we keep them in power longer than necessary or, worse, longer than is good for the country.

    Used To Be (none / 0) (#16)
    by squeaky on Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 01:16:04 PM EST
    Based on the length of the trip to DC or PA from stagecoach or horse.

    Now it is too long and there is little reason for the transition to take so long.


    Obama is more sensitive and familiar with (none / 0) (#4)
    by thereyougo on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:39:32 PM EST
    the prisoners and can relate and respect some of their concerns. We know some are even innocent.

    What is obvious is that the country can't wait to have the premisses vacated by the doofus in chief.

    does anyone else find it strange that Obama (none / 0) (#6)
    by befuddledvoter on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:46:50 PM EST
    is making statements that actually undermine the present President. I am not talking about whether or not you agree with GW.  I just do not remember anything this blatant with other Presidents elect.  

    not at all (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:59:52 PM EST
    he made a campaign promise to close Gitmo, why shouldn't he reinforce it? I think he should declare today he will follow through on his promise.

    As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions" - Barack Obama, 8/1/07

    I am not talking about Obama's consistency at all (none / 0) (#13)
    by befuddledvoter on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:55:04 PM EST
    I just feel uncomfortable with his timing. We still have a sitting President.  

    so much for (none / 0) (#14)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:22:24 PM EST
    "mr. progressive". what was all this talk about the geneva conventions coming back into vogue, starting in jan. 2009?

    I just feel uncomfortable with his timing. We still have a sitting President.  

    and your point would be? so what? you afraid bush's widdle feelings might be hurt? that would be you, and the members of his immediate family. i remain unconvinced about barney though.

    he's going to have a tough time coming up with a "court" that ignores the geneva conventions, the UCMJ and our constitution, none of which allow evidence gained by torture.

    thanks to mr. bush, the cases against some of the worst have forever been compromised.