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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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Dems, Not Republicans, Introduced Guantanamo Transfer Ban

Via TPM Muckraker: It was Democrats, not Republicans, that inserted the ban on Guantanamo detainee transfers to the U.S., including for trial, into the Omnibus Spending Bill:

According to sources on both sides of the House Appropriations Committee, which had purview over the legislation, the bill was written entirely by the Democratic side. It was revealed to Republicans only hours before the vote. No amendments were allowed on the House floor. No Republicans voted for it.

And, the committee sources said, the White House would have seen the final package -- including the transfer ban -- and would have had the chance to object.

Did someone forget to tell Attorney General Eric Holder? [More...]

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AG Eric Holder Asks Senate to Drop Ban on Guantanamo Trials

Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the Senate to reject the provision in the funding bill passed by the House banning federal criminal trials of Guantanamo inmates in the U.S.

In a letter to Senate leaders, Holder called the provision "an extreme and risky encroachment on the authority of the Executive Branch." There was no immediate indication from the White House whether President Barack Obama finds the Gitmo-related limit so objectionable that he would veto the continuing resolution funding the government through September.

"This provision goes well beyond existing law and would unwisely restrict the ability of the Executive Branch to prosecute alleged terrorists in Federal courts or military commissions in the United States as well as its ability to incarcerate those convicted in those tribunals," Holder said in the letter, sent Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).  "In order to protect the American people as effectively as possible, we must be in a position to use every lawful instrument of national power to ensure that terrorists are brought to justice and can no longer threaten American lives."

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House Votes to Block Civilian Trials of Guantanamo Detainees


The House of Representatives tonight approved an add-on to the budget bill preventing Guantanamo detainees from being transferred to the U.S. for trial:

In a setback for President Barack Obama, Democrats still controlling the House have approved legislation to prevent alleged 9/11 mastermine Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other detainees at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay from being transferred to the U.S. for trials in criminal courts.

The Guantánamo ban was included in a huge catchall spending bill that passed the House Wednesday by a 212-206 vote. The Senate has yet to act on the legislation, which would further imperil Obama's effort to close the detention center for terrorist suspects.

Currently, the law prevents detainees from being transferred and released, not transferred and tried. If passed by the Senate, the ban will be in effect until September 30, 2011, the end of the fiscal year.

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Great Britain's Payout to Guantanamo Detainees

Great Britain has decided to pay millions to 16 detainees at Guantanamo (one of whom, Shaker Aamer, is still there) to settle lawsuits alleging British intelligence officers were complicit in their torture, rather than battle them in court.

"The alternative to any payments made would have been protracted and extremely expensive litigation in an uncertain legal environment in which the government could not be certain that it would be able to defend Departments and the Security and Intelligence Agencies without compromising national security.

"This cost was estimated at approximately £30-50m over 3-5 years and in our view there could have been no inquiry until that litigation had been resolved."

The amount is secret but reported by several sources to be in the millions. Here's a list of the detainees, which includes Binyam Mohammed, Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes. [More...]

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AG Holder on Arizona and Guantanamo

Attorney General Eric Holder was at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week, where he was interviewed by CBS's Bob Schieffer for a segment of CBS Face the Nation that aired today.

There's not much new in his interviews. Basically, he said that the Arizona lawsuit is based on the pre-emption argument -- that the state law violates the Constitution's Supremacy Clause. The racial profiling argument was weaker because there's no evidence of it yet. He said down the road, should evidence develop that the law is resulting in racial profiling, the Government will have the tools to make the challenge. [More...]

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Obama May Give Up on Closing Guantanamo

The New York Times reports President Obama has put closing Guantanamo on the back burner due to opposition, and may not make any real effort to close it before his term ends in 2012.

Another example of "change you can believe in"?

Whatever happened to the decision on where to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other four detainees the Administration decided to try in federal court until conservatives and New Yorkers objected? Months ago, Attorney General Eric Holder said it was "weeks away." Is that going on the back burner too? Why give them a trial anywhere when you can hold them indefinitely at Gitmo? It's not like anyone cares, right?

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Federal Judge Recuses Himself From Gitmo Case After Bias Claim

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth has recused himself from the habeas case of Guantanamo detainee Abdal Razik Ali.

In a nutshell, Judge Lamberth, in an interview with Pro Publica, discussed how judges were weighing the risks of releasing detainees. He was quoted as saying, not with respect to any particular detainee:

"How confident can I be that if I make the wrong choice that he won’t be the one that blows up the Washington Monument or the Capitol?"

Ali's lawyer filed a motion to recuse him. [More...]

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