May 15th, 2009 at 10:59am
After months of silence, we finally hear that Obama isn’t going to kill off Gitmo in the way he planned to during his campaign:
President Obama is expected to announce the administration’s decision to restart Bush-era military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees Friday, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Obama suspended the tribunals within hours of taking office in January, ordering a review but stopping short of abandoning President George W. Bush’s strategy of prosecuting suspected terrorists.
An administration official familiar with Obama’s decision said between 10 and 20 of the 241 detainees currently at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be tried by military commissions.
Thirteen other detainees — including five charged with helping orchestrate the Sept. 11 attacks — already have been moved into the system and are expected to be tried there, FOX News has confirmed.
The rest of the detainees would either be released, transferred to other nations or tried by civilian prosecutors in U.S. federal courts, an official said. It’s also possible that some could continue to be held indefinitely as prisoners of war with full Geneva Conventions protections, according to another senior U.S. official.
Obama’s decision to resume the tribunals is certain to face criticism from liberal groups, already stung by his decision Wednesday to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan — a reversal of his earlier stand on making the photos public.
In February 2008, during his presidential campaign, Obama described the Guantanamo trials as “a flawed military commission system that has failed to convict any one of a terrorist act since the 9/11 attacks and that has been embroiled in legal challenges.” Critics, including many Democrats, cited the tribunals in assailing Bush, who had pushed Congress to create the system. They accused him of violating U.S. law by limiting the detainees’ legal rights.
The new decision will delay the trials for several more months, the officials said. Obama is adding some changes to the commissions before they are restarted, including expanding the detainees’ legal protections by restricting hearsay evidence that can be used against them, according to two officials.
The delay would give the administration time to adjust the system and allow Congress to review any rule changes or pass legislation altering the military commission law.
Obama’s decision also amounts to an admission that delivering on his promise to close Guantanamo is easier said than done. Since he ordered the prison closed, Republicans have focused on the issue of where the detainees would go — and the new Democratic administration’s lack of a plan to deal with them.
On Capitol Hill Thursday, the House approved war-funding legislation that says detainees from Guantanamo must not be released on U.S. soil — though it would allow some of the prisoners to be transferred to the United States to stand trial or serve their sentences.
It’s funny how much changes when you take the reigns and realise just how unworkable your plans are, and just how close to being right the plans of your opponents were.
I’m pleased to see Obama coming to a correct decision despite pressure from his own side of the political divide to do the opposite, however I am disappointed at the amount of time we have had to waste on making minimal changes to an almost correct system.