Tag: Guantanamo (page 4)
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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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 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 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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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The U.S. has spent $500 million upgrading Guantanamo since 2001, according to the first published report on the prison's spending.
Here's some of where the money went:
- $188,000 for a marquee sign that says "Welcome Aboard"
- $249,000 for an abandoned volleyball court
- $296,000 for an unused go-cart track
- $3.5 million for 27 playgrounds, mostly unused
- $683,000 to renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee
- $773,000 to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant.
The point of these expenditures: "[T]o comfort the military personnel and contractors who run detainee operations." Despite the decline in number of detainees (now at 181), the spending continues:
Next up is an expansion of one of the most popular spots on the base: O'Kelly's, an Irish pub. [More...]
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Via the Miami Herald, a federal judge yesterday granted the Habeas petition of Yemeni Mohammed Hassan, finding he was was illegally detained at Guantanamo.
Hassen argued at a 2004 status hearing at Guantanamo that the first time he heard of al Qaida was "in this prison.'' He claimed that he had been unjustly rounded up in a March 2002 dragnet by Pakistani security forces in the city of Faisalabad that targeted Arabs, including himself a student of Islam.
The number of detainees determined to be unlawfully held at Guantanamo by federal judges is now 36.
The win-loss scorecard was 14-36 on Wednesday. Civilian judges have upheld the military detentions of 14 other foreign men among the 181 war on terror captives at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
As Glenn Greenwald writes today in A Disgrace of Historic Proportions, 72% of the 50 detainees who have brought habeas petitions since the Supreme Court ruling allowing them, have won.
The Obama Administration opposed Hassan's petition even though he had been cleared for release by the Bush Administration.
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today reversed a trial court decision by Judge John Bates, a Bush appointee, and ruled that three detainees who have been held at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan without charges since 2002-2003, are not allowed to bring a habeas corpus action seeking release in U.S. courts. The opinion is here.
Judge Bates ruled in April, 2009 that there was no difference between those held at Bagram and those held at Guantanamo. His decision applied only to about a dozen detainees who were non-Afghans captured outside Afghanistan.
The three men in the case are a Tunisian man who says he was captured in Pakistan in 2002, and two from Yemen. One says he was captured in Thailand in 2002, and the other says he was detained in 2003 also outside Afghanistan.
The Appeals court based its ruling on the fact that "Bagram was on the sovereign territory of another government" and “pragmatic obstacles” of giving hearings to detainees “in an active theater of war.” [More....]
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The House Armed Services Committee has unanimously passed H.R. 5136, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. Among it's provisions: There can be no money expended on buying Thomson Correctional Center (or any other prison in the U.S.) to house detainees from Guantanamo:
PROHIBITION ON FUNDS TO MODIFY OR CONSTRUCT U.S. FACILITIES FOR DETAINEES
The Committee firmly believes that the construction or modification of any facility in the U.S. to detain or imprison individuals currently being held at Guantanamo must be accompanied by a thorough and comprehensive plan that outlines the merits, costs, and risks associated with utilizing such a facility. No such plan has been presented to date. The bill prohibits the use of any funds for this purpose. Additionally, the bill requires the Secretary of Defense to present Congress with a report that adequately justifies any proposal to build or modify such a facility in the future.
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