Military tribunals will resume for detainees in Guantanamo, despite President Obama's campaign promise to close the facility. The trials were suspended on Obama's first day in office, but after 16 months of review, the president has done little to change the policy instated by President Bush. The announcement was expected, but many on the left are still outraged by it.
Obama's hands are somewhat tied by a law recently passed by Congress that prohibits detainees being brought stateside for trial, NBC News' Pete Williams reports. The decision to restart the tribunals gives the administration a way to try high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, even though the White House would prefer he be tried in the U.S.
- Gitmo Is Effective, Thomas Joscelyn writes at The Weekly Standard. "The press and many commentators treat Guantanamo like a law enforcement problem. The claim that detainees are 'held without charge,' as if they were arrested as mere criminals, has been repeated time and again. The truth is that Guantanamo was never a prison or some sort of criminal justice facility. The U.S. government never intended to try most of the detainees in any court. Guantanamo always has been, and continues to be, a military detention facility. As such, its chief purposes were to remove jihadists from the battlefield or any environment where they may pose a threat, and to collect intelligence from them." Judged by those goals, the detention facility has been a success, Jocelyn says.
- Not All Detainees Are Dangerous, researchers at Seton Hall's law school argue. Pentagon officials routinely referred to the detainees as the "worst of the worst," but a newly-unearthed memo written in 2003 by then-Secretary of Defense Donald contradicts that. It reads, "We need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) with low-level enemy combatants. ... GTMO needs to serve as an [redacted] not a prison for Afghanistan." Professor Mark Denbeaux commented, “First they lied about who was in Guantanamo, now they lie about those who left."
- This Will Mean Lifelong Detention, Fire Dog Lake's David Dayen writes. "First things first, this means that Barack Obama will not be the President who closes Guantanamo. ... Second, this is not just a way to 'bring terrorists to justice.' It’s a way to hold onto detainees without charges.... Those deemed 'too dangerous' to release, but where the government doesn’t have the evidence to convict, will simply be held in a cage for the rest of their lives, I guess. ... They will ensure that nobody they don’t want leaving the island leaves – it amounts to kangaroo courts."
- Obama Ignored Reality, Commentary's Alana Goodman adds. Two years ago, Obama "dismissed the opposition to closing the prison as partisan politics designed to create a 'climate of fear' ... In reality, there were serious roadblocks to closing Guantanamo, ones that the administration still hasn’t been able to overcome. It wasn’t Obama’s critics who 'refuse[d] to deal with these issues' back in 2009, as he claimed. It was Obama himself who ignored the legitimate problems with his proposal and is now being forced to eat his words two years later."
In Monday's announcment, the White House noted that the government will continue to detain suspected terrorists even though they cannot be charged because they "remain at war with the United States."
Three men are first in line for the trials: Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, accused of plotting the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000; Ahmed al Darbi, accused of planning to drive a bomb-packed boat into a ship in the Strait of Hormuz; and Obaidullah, accused of keeping explosives in his home and possessing notes on how to blow stuff up.