Patterico's Pontifications

5/14/2009

Hope and Change: Obama keeps military commissions for detainees

Filed under: General — Karl @ 11:20 pm



[Posted by Karl]

 As Jim Geraghty would (and probably will) say, all of Obama’s statements come with an expiration date — all of them:

President Obama has decided to keep the military commission system that his predecessor created to try suspected terrorists but will ask Congress to expand the rights of defendants to contest the charges against them, officials briefed on the plan said Thursday.

Mr. Obama will ask for an additional 120-day delay in nine pending hearings before commissions so the administration can revamp the procedures to provide more due process to detainees, the officials said. The new system would limit the use of hearsay, ban evidence gained from cruel treatment, give defendants more latitude to pick their own lawyers and provide more protection if they do not testify.

The decision, to be announced Friday, could set off more criticism from civil libertarian and liberal groups that have increasingly complained that Mr. Obama has not made a sharper break from former President George W. Bush’s terrorism policies.

In fact, the ACLU was already on record against it (the Left is not always against pre-emptive strikes).

The “expanded rights” Obama provides are not much. For example, detainees already had the right to private counsel. Evidence obtained through cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was already inadmissible if obtained after the passage of the December 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. The shifting of the burden on hearsay is unlikely to change many rulings, let alone outcomes. Obama’s flunkies are trying to defend him by noting that Obama never rejected the possibility of using military tribunals, pointing to legislation he supported as a senator in 2006 — but that legislation was far more radical than what is described now.

This looks to be the latest Obama Three-Step:

First: Denounce your presidential predecessor for a given policy, energizing your party’s base and capitalizing on his abiding unpopularity. Second: Pretend to have reversed that policy upon taking office with a symbolic act or high-profile statement. Third: Adopt a version of that same policy, knowing that it’s the only way to govern responsibly or believing that doing otherwise is too difficult. Repeat as necessary.

In February, the Obama administration ruled that some 600 enemy combatants at Bagram have no constitutional rights. In March, Obama dropped the term “enemy combatant,” but adopted almost the same standard the Bush administration used to detain people without charge. In April, the administration appealed a court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. It is beginning to look like “repeat as necessary” is a monthly event.

This particular three-step is interesting because Obama is asking for another 120-day delay of hearings at Guantanamo. Such a delay would be useful for an administration that still has no plan for delivering on Obama’s campaign promise to shut down the facility, wouldn’t it?

–Karl

41 Responses to “Hope and Change: Obama keeps military commissions for detainees”

  1. Its time for a blank stare Obama picture with an identical blank stare Bush picture for the obligatory “seperated at birth” post

    EricPWJohnson (8b4dab)

  2. This makes him look bad, yet he did it anyway. I think Obama deserves credit for growing up. I might even call it leadership.

    Now if he could only communicate why he is doing this better than his predecessor did, maybe we would make progress.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  3. Reflexively opposing everything your predecessor did is easy.

    Governing is hard.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  4. But…but…but….Karl!

    Bush is stooopid. And Karl Rove is evil.

    Everyone hates us for doing what Bush does.

    But it is different when Obama does it.

    He is hip and cool and smooth. At least when the TelePrompter is on.

    He also speaks Austrian.

    Seriously, it is maddening. But we will be here a lot of foot-stamping petulant cries of “…it’s different…” from the Left when the current occupant of the White House continues the policies of the prior occupant.

    Eric Blair (262ccd)

  5. The teleprompter must have lied, again. What a complete anti-American socialist this man is. He’s screwing up everything he touches. This having to vote “yea” or “nay” rather than “present” is obviously above his pay grade.

    krusher (a3e894)

  6. It was evil when Bush did it. When Barcky does it, it shows leadership and pragmatism. Or, maybe, it shows how incredibly disingenuous the Left has been on these issues, putting partisan politics ahead of national security for the benefit of the party. Well done, Barcky.

    JD (26bc30)

  7. He has a “gift” you know.

    Baxter Greene (8035ae)

  8. JD, I make make my share of typos, but this is not: what you wrote in #6 appears to be both true and shameful.

    We need to remember that, all of us.

    Eric Blair (262ccd)

  9. Jeez, and I just did again. I better get some coffee.

    Eric Blair (262ccd)

  10. Wonder what Ms. Botox thinks about this latest revelation? Perhaps we can relocate the Gitmo detainees to a refurbished Alcatraz (not that that’s such a bad idea)? Honestly, what did the administration think they were going to do with those prisoners, return them to their home countries after teh hallowed “world apology tour?” It’s either extreme naivete’ or wanton cycnism. I’m glad he’s doing the right thing here, regardless of his deeper motives.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  11. The President could never get a federal judge to ignore the human rights violations involved with our POW’s. He needs a show trial to extract the Vengeance necessary to rationalize his War Without End.
    If the President truly believes publicizing a few photographs would cost American lives, what does he think show trials and executions would do?
    “Whoever fights monsters,” warned Friedrich Nietzsche, “should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

    leftover (6aa048)

  12. leftover –

    On what basis are the prisoners at Gitmo POWs?

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  13. I’m looking forward to Myron describing the changed “facts” for me.

    SPQR (72771e)

  14. Well, I would ask Karl what should be done with these gentlemen, but I imagine you don’t actually care about anything that could be done, except as a way to make partisan noise.

    Obama can’t keep Gitmo open, since he pledged not to and it’s a vile place and the SC already said detainees can challenge their detention. You can’t apparently release these “inmates,” since disingenuous Republican Congressmen will introduce bills with titles like: “The Democratic release of terrorists on Main Street.”

    It’s evil to try people with hearsay evidence and coerced statements (your link above is classically silly: it features a US military officer discussing how coerced statements cannot be used against the detainee, but he neglects to mention coerced statements from THIRD parties CAN be used against the defendant. Mighty fair system, indeed) and to get them out of Gitmo, he has to try them.

    He can’t do it in open Court or even in a court martial proceeding, because none of them would be convicted (the evidence is all hearsay and coercion), so the only option is changing the military commissions to be more fair and put people through judicial proceedings.

    So, to summarize:

    Option 1) He doesn’t like Gitmo, but, if he decided to keep it open, you would call him a liar.

    Option 2) He can’t just release the prisoners, because you would say he supports terrorists.

    Option 3) He can’t try the prisoners in Court, because he can’t convict them and you would be mad at open trials for “national security” reasons.

    So, he can’t keep them, he can’t release them, the Supreme Court says they deserve judicial proceedings, but they can’t be tried in open court.

    Seems to me, the only option you favor, Karl, is the one which the Supreme Court barred in Boumediene, i.e. keeping Gitmo prisoners down on the farm with no legal rights. Whereas he cowardly avoids my option of telling Republicans to suck it and figure out a way to just release them.

    In the end, it wouldn’t matter because partisan bloggers would call him a liar. Seriously, did you have this post ready to go and just insert the details, because there’s absolutely no course of action you would favor?

    In fact, as usual, jd’s wrong. Finding one’s self with the Gitmo detainee problem is not a problem he caused or asked for. It shouldn’t exist.

    But, it does and he has to do something to fix it. ‘Cause, yeah, the left is so disingenuous we secretly supported Gitmo all along and just used it for electoral purposes. No Leftist has any real problem with Gitmo, despite the ACLU attorneys (and others) who volunteer their pro bono time to represent them in Cuba and in Federal Court. And, don’t get me started on those leftist military JAG’s, who filed appeals for their clients and took them all the way to Supreme Court. They didn’t even believe it, but they knew bucking the Bush administration and the Pentagon would be great for their careers. Cynical manipulators they are.

    No, no one cares about the injustice that is an attempt to create a legal black hole, except the American Right and they only care because they support legal black holes. Uncle Augusto Pinochet would be proud of them.

    timb (a83d56)

  15. Finding one’s self with the Gitmo detainee problem is not a problem he caused or asked for.

    That’s a curious statement. He didn’t ask for it? Why did he run for President, then? Did he not know of GTMO during the campaign?

    Most of us here think the military commissions are the right thing to do. They were the right thing to do when Bush was doing it, and they’re the right thing to do when Obama’s doing it. We’re just terribly amused at the turn-around.

    Steverino (69d941)

  16. timb, your entire comment is hilarious. Starting with the logical fallacies where you assume your conclusions, through the attempt to rehabilitate Obama in advance.

    Obama knew his campaign positions were irresponsible attacks on the Bush administration. But that did not slow him down at all, because he and his supporters are inherently juvenile, non-serious, and irresponsible.

    It is hilarious that you seem to think that the only reason not to release the detainees is because of the political campaign commercials that would then fodder. It is the kind of unserious thought we’ve come to expect.

    SPQR (72771e)

  17. SPQR – It is all politics, all the time for them, and the creepy one just proved what I wrote in #6.

    Baracky has to do this, because of Bush and campaign commercials? Give me a break.

    JD (26bc30)

  18. JD, the real fear of an empty suit is of course a 30 second commercial.

    SPQR (72771e)

  19. Obama’s flunkies are trying to defend him by noting that Obama never rejected the possibility of using military tribunals, pointing to legislation he supported as a senator in 2006 — but that legislation was far more radical than what is described now.

    That legislation looks substantially identical to what Obama is proposing now (except the proposed hearsay provision is a stronger provision than the earlier co-sponsored bill). Are there any specific provisions you can point to as “far more radical”?

    jpe (08c1dd)

  20. When your resume consists of 30 second campaign spots and catchy campaign slogans like HOPE! And CHANGE!, I can see why a potential commercial might scare him.

    Interesting how the dummerest President EVAH managed to box in the smartest most eloquent President EVAH!

    JD (26bc30)

  21. At least he appears to be taking the intelligence briefings seriously – finally.

    voiceofreason2 (590c85)

  22. Where is Lawrence Welk when re really, really need him? And a one and a two and a three

    Mike Myers (674050)

  23. timb,

    1. They’re not “gentlemen”.
    2. They’re terrorists, not criminals. They weren’t detained with the idea of collecting evidence or proving guilt in court, they were detained to prevent them from killing our soldiers and innocents.
    3. Guantanamo is not vile. Go work there for just a few days and you’ll see that some detainees are vile though.
    4. Since when has a pledge not to do something stopped President Obama from doing it anyway? Or vice-versa for that matter?
    5. Not all the evidence is hearsay or coerced, believe it or not. Saying it is repeatedly does not make it so. The canard that they were innocents picked up for a bounty is a despicable lie. They’re fighters, support personnel, recruiters, planners, financiers, and service… but not innocents.
    6. Releasing detainees into the United States is the same thing as releasing terrorists into the United States. Why shouldn’t people shout that out long and hard?
    7. Comparing the Right to Pinochet is pretty vile, to use your own phrase.
    8. If you want to release them, waive the requirement that they cannot be returned to their home country because of what they may face there. Send them home and what happens to them is no longer our business. That will literally eliminate over half the problem because they will be dead. Most of the rest will rejoin the fight and end up dead as well because if terrorists are released to fight again, what’s the point of detaining illegal combatants? Don’t capture them, don’t let them surrender, don’t let them continue to resist. Is that really how you want war to be fought? No prisoners?
    9. Do you really believe that those attorneys are working pro-bono? That’s incredibly naive. How much have the Saudi and Yemeni governments paid into the firms that employ these “pro-bono” lawyers? This is a lucrative gig for them.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  24. An excellent riposte, Stashiu3. And a terrific fit with the comment above it, at least on my browser screen…

    carlitos (aa025a)

  25. Neither the left nor the right seems ready to face the reality of the situation. The right fails to recognize that the Bush administration’s treatment of these detainees has made it difficult to prosecute these people anywhere under any system. How do we deal with that problem? Detain them for ever? The left fails to recognize that the possibility of dismissing charges against some of these individuals, which could happen if they were sent to federal court, is neither politically acceptable or acceptable from a security standpoint. So Obama just seems to be making the best out of a bad situation. Everybody wants to criticize but nobody seems to want to come up with a better solution.

    Joe Markowitz (a3ca51)

  26. The right fails to recognize that the Bush administration’s treatment of these detainees has made it difficult to prosecute these people anywhere under any system.

    Terrorism is more than just a law enforcement problem. It’s also a war.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R., (10cb85)

  27. Perhaps someone can let us know how many countries on Obama’s World Apology Tour have agreed to take their own countrymen back from us?

    Making the best of a bad situation would be to either shoot them or ship every single one back to his country, and tell them to deal with it, but that would take a set of stones.

    carlitos (aa025a)

  28. Brother Bradley – Senor Markotwitz simply assumes his conclusion, and works from there. It is easier that way.

    JD (116d4d)

  29. Also see “Requests for Emergency Supplemental Approrpriations,” transparency, etc.
    .
    FWIW, Boumediene was released today.

    cboldt (3d73dd)

  30. As an example of foolishness, carlitos, it’s illegal for us to ship many of them back to their country where they would be killed without trial/rights/etc. But hey, the Obama administration does plenty of stuff that’s illegal, so why stop now?

    luagha (5cbe06)

  31. This is the one that Axelrod and the rest of the left will be pushing to distract from Obama’s flipflop on detainee tribunals and the torture pics. With Pelosi and the CIA going at each other like a couple of wet cats, Obama needs something to get the left back on their favorite hobby-horse–blaming Bush–rather than wringing their hands over Pelosi’s spat with an agency her boss is in charge of.

    Another Chris (2d8013)

  32. Obama can’t keep Gitmo open, since he pledged not to and it’s a vile place

    This is Tim’s standard MO without any shreds of proof, except that he thinks so – brilliant. I hope he’s not planning on practicing the law with this type of argumentation. Please tell us why you think Gitmo’s so vile, Tim – and I’ll give you a description of the conditions here at the Joliet Federal Pen, and what the prisoners have to deal with on a daily basis there.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  33. The most humane prisoner of war camp ever and timb calls it “vile”.

    That’s just irrational.

    SPQR (72771e)

  34. He’s in law school, SPQR – so you know whatever he says is true by definition.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  35. I’ll give you a description of the conditions here at the Joliet Federal Pen, and what the prisoners have to deal with on a daily basis there.

    Go for it.

    For starters: When did it become “Joliet Federal Pen?”

    steve (8b5094)

  36. It’s not, I misnamed the prison. Joliet is not the maximum security prison anymore – but the violent inmates there were transfered to neighboring Stateville recently:

    http://www.amazon.com/Stateville-Penitentiary-Society-Studies-Justice/dp/0226389774

    As with Joliet, the gangs from Chicago control the prison – and the daily violence, rape and extortion (and sometimes murder) of prisoners have been well – documented:

    http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/lockdown/3830/Overview

    There is no relation to what the GITMO detainees undergo compared to the typical prisoner experiences at Stateville – none.

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  37. There is no relation to what the GITMO detainees undergo compared to the typical prisoner experiences at Stateville

    Nor much of a chance they’d be transferred to a state facility.

    steve (8b5094)

  38. You asked for a detailed description of the prisoner experience, and it was provided. Is there an additional point you’re attempting to make here, are you trying to change the subject?

    Dmac (1ddf7e)

  39. I would have preferred summary execution of detainees.

    There is no relation to what the GITMO detainees undergo compared to the typical prisoner experiences at Stateville – none.

    Stateville has a lot more in common with Ronald McDonald house than San Quentin.

    I wonder how the detainees would fare in San Quentin’s general population.

    Nor much of a chance they’d be transferred to a state facility.

    That is too bad.

    Michael Ejercito (7c44bf)


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