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AG Holder Says Obama Will Still Try to Close Guantanamo

In Brussels, Attorney General Eric Holder said Obama remains committed to closing Guantanamo despite Republican opposition. If he doesn't get it done before the election, he'll keep trying after.

"We will be pressing for the closure of the facility between now and then - and after that election, we will try to close it as well," Holder said. "Some people have made this a political issue without looking at, I think, the real benefits that would flow from the closure of the facility."

He also said there will be no return to harsh interrogation techniques/torture:

Holder also said that the United States would stick to the "fundamental break" with some interrogation techniques that were criticized around the world as amounting to torture...."We have indicated that certain techniques that were used previously are in fact torture, and will not be engaged in again by the United States," Holder said.

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House Passes Funding Bill With World-Wide War and Detention Authority

Yesterday, the House passed its version of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (available here.) The roll call vote is here. The bill, which is a renewal of the 2001 authority for war, expands the authority world-wide. The bill passed by a vote of 322-96 and contains a $553 billion Pentagon base budget and $119 billion for overseas contingency operations.

It also blocks federal criminal trials of suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens. An amendment to strike the worldwide war provision failed. Obama has promised to veto the bill due to the world-wide war authority provision.

The bill also delays implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and provides that those considered for indefinite detention at Guantanamo may not be represented by legal counsel, only a military representative. It also prohibits the Guantanamo detainees from receiving family visits. [More...]

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Another Suicide at Guantanamo

Detainee Hajji Nassim, aka Inayatullah, committed suicide at Guantanamo yesterday. He is the sixth detainee to kill himself at Guantanamo.

He was captured in Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo in 2007. He was represented by the Federal Defenders of Miami, who say at one point they arranged for a civilian psychiatrist to visit him.

Wikileaks has no documents on him, but his the pleadings in his habeas case, available on PACER, (Case No. 09-cv-01332-HHK) detail more than 60 interrogations, the first of which was on September 13, 2007. He was an Afghan national who co-owned a cell phone store in Iran. He was suspected of providing safe housing and/or transit from Iran to Pakistan to Turk/al Qaeda fighters. On one occasion he may have delivered a message. He had a wife and six children. He was very concerned about his brother Hidayatullah who he thought was imprisoned at Bagram. [More...]

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Guantanamo Documents Show Detention Policies Were a Failure


McClatchy's Carol Rosenberg and Tom Lasseter have an analysis of the new Guantanamo documents released by Wikileaks to various news organizations. Shorter version: Bush and Rumsfeld's detention and interrogation policies were a flub.

a collection of secret intelligence documents from George W. Bush's administration, not meant to surface for 20 years, shows that the military's efforts at Guantánamo often were much less effective than the government has acknowledged. Viewed as a whole, the secret intelligence summaries help explain why in May 2009 President Barack Obama, after ordering his own review of wartime intelligence, called America's experiment at Guantánamo "quite simply a mess."

The information from detainee-informants was unreliable. [More...]

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NY Times Obtains Classified Documents on Guantanamo Detainees

The New York Times and other media outlets have major reports tonight on leaked classfied documents regarding Guantanamo detainees. You can view several of the leaked documents, courtesy of Wikileaks, here. the Times reports some of the leaked files pertain to detainee suicides.

[A] collection of secret detainee assessment files obtained by The New York Times reveal that the threat of suicide has created a chronic tension at the prison — a tactic frequently discussed by the captives and a constant fear for their captors.

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DOJ to Announce Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Be Tried By Military Commission

Attorney General Eric Holder will announce at 2:00 pm today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 detainees at Guantanamo will be tried by military commission instead of in federal criminal court.

Obama and Holder deserves there lumps over this, but the primary fault lies with Congress and officials in New York. [More...]

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Obama Adminstration Urges Civilian Trials Remain an Option for Detainees

Jeh Johnson, the General Counsel for the Department of Defense, is urging Congress not to rule out civilian trials of detainees.

Jeh (Jay) Johnson said a Republican bill to virtually remove the civilian option would make it more likely that courts would step in when detainees challenge their detentions. He testified Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee.

Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald has much more on new Republican efforts to prevent closing Gitmo:

But the focus was the Republican draft legislation that would further thwart Obama’s efforts to close the detention center in southeast Cuba. It also would give the defense secretary rather than the attorney general final say on keeping a detainee in military custody. The bill imposes such tough requirements on transfers of the last Guantánamo captives that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he might not be able to approve any release.

Best line from the hearing:

They turn Guantánamo Bay into the Hotel California,” said the top Democrat on the committee, Washington Rep. Adam Smith. “You can check out any time you want but you can never leave.”

[More...]

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Obama Issues Order Resuming Guantanamo Military Commission Trials

President Obama issued an executive order today clearing the way for more military commission trials at Guantanamo. The ACLU says Obama has now "institutionalized indefinite detention." It calls Obama's new review process "window dressing."

Here's the Order. Here's the administration's Fact Sheet. From Obama's statement. [More....]

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7th Detainee Dies at Guantanamo

Awal Gul, a 48 year old detainee at Guantanamo, has died. The Pentagon says he suffered a heart attack in the shower after exercising on an elliptical machine. Its press release is here.

Gul is the 7th detainee to die at Guantanamo. Five committed suicide (according to the Pentagon) and one died of colon cancer

The Center for Constitutional Rights responds here. His public defenders, W. Matthew Dodge and Brian Mendelsohn, call the press release outrageous. Here's their statement: [More...]

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Guantanamo Military Comm. Trial Set for Feb. 14

The military commission trials at Guantanamo are gearing up. Next up: Feb. 14, United States vs. Noor Uthman.

Media reservation requests should be e-mailed to Tanya.bradsher-at-osd.mil. All requests must be received by 5 p.m. EST, February 4, 2011. Due to a limited number of seats aboard the flight and limited accommodations at Guantanamo Bay, media travel is not guaranteed.

One more day of 20 below weather and I might volunteer (Except I probably don't have the necessary security clearance.) No matter, Carole Rosenburg of the Miami Herald will be there and she does a great job of both reporting long style and tweeting the essential updates.

You can read about Noor Uthman's case here.

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Obama to Resume Guantanamo Military Commission Trials


President Obama is about to lift the ban on military commission trials at Guantanamo.

One of those expected to be recharged and tried is Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who was captured in 2002. Al-Nashiri was originally charged by the Bush Administration with participating in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. He was facing the death penalty. The Obama Administration moved to dismiss the charges against in in 2009. Al-Nashiri's co-defendants were moved to federal court. Why wasn't Al-Nashiri? The obvious answer is because the evidence against him was obtained by torture. His lawyer, Lt. Com. Stephen Reyes says:

“Nashiri is being prosecuted at the commissions because of the torture issue,” Mr. Reyes said. “Otherwise he would be indicted in New York along with his alleged co-conspirators.”

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Obama's Weak Signing Statement on Guantanamo Transfer Ban

As predicted, President Obama has signed the defense funding authorization bill into law, issuing a signing statement that registered his objections but did not assert the provisions banning funding for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees was unconstitutional.

Despite my strong objection to these provisions, which my Administration has consistently opposed, I have signed this Act because of the importance of authorizing appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011.

Nevertheless, my Administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future.

Good luck with that. Once you give power to the Government, it rarely gives it back.

Human Rights First has issued this response. [More...]

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Obama to Issue Signing Statement on Guantanamo Restrictions in Funding Bill

Via Pro Publica: President Obama plans to include a signing statement in the funding bill passed by Congress pertaining to the restrictions on transfers of Guantanamo detainees.

The spending measure effectively bars the president from prosecuting any detainees in federal court or conducting military commission trials on U.S. soil. The bill makes it increasingly difficult to transfer detainees to foreign countries, even if the administration deems them safe to release. And it complicates the review process Obama plans in the executive order for nearly 50 detainees the administration has designated as too dangerous to free.

It's not clear whether his statement will express opposition to all of the provisions, or just some of them. Nor is it clear whether he will merely state his objection to the provisions or assert at least some unconstitutionally infringe on prosecutorial discretion, an executive power. [More...]

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Karl Rove's Misguided Argument Against Federal Trials for 9/11 Defendants

Karl Rove has an op-ed in the Wall St. Journal taking issue with President Obama's view that one of the reasons Guantanamo should be closed is that it serves as a training ground for terrorists. Rove argues that al Qaeda doesn't view Guantanamo as a significant issue, and that trying detainees in federal court will play into al Qaeda's hands by making them martyrs.

It's the second point, the "martyr" issue, where Rove's argument falls far short of the mark and also weakens his first point.

New York juries in the past have beaten al Qaeda at the martyr game, by rejecting the death penalty and returning verdicts of life in prison. Once the terror defendants are whisked away to Supermax for life, we rarely hear from them again. No martyrdom, just decades of isolation. What have you heard from Zacarias Moussaoui or Richard Reid since they began serving their life sentences? Zip. They have been silenced, except for their occasional pro se court pleadings, which get little if any coverage. Any chance for martyrdom has been effectively eliminated. [More...]

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Congress Bans Guantanamo Detainee Transfers to the U.S.

Congress bans Guantanamo transfers for trial or any other reason. It also put the kabosh on using U.S. prisons to house Gitmo detainees.

The measure for fiscal year 2011 blocks the Department of Defense from using any money to move Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S. for any reason. It also says the Pentagon can't spend money on any U.S. facility aimed at housing detainees moved from Guantanamo, in a slap at the administration's study of building such a facility in Illinois.

Obama claimed yesterday he still supports closing Guantanamo, but he didn't mention the legislation, which he obviously intends to sign since it contains his funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

[H]e said he remained committed to eventually closing the prison at Guantánamo because it was a symbol that was “probably the No. 1 recruitment tool” for terrorist propaganda.

At the same time, he's drawing up a plan for indefinite detention of terror detainees. If they can't be detained in the U.S., where's he going to put them besides Guantanamo? Are we going to buy or take over more prisons in Iraq or Afghanistan and ship them there? Out of sight, out of mind. [More...]

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