Friday, December 19, 2008

Closing Guantanamo?

Today's Washington Post has an article reporting that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is telling the military to draw up a plan for the closing of Guantanamo, preparatory to any order to do so by soon-to-be president Barack Obama.

While the closing of Guantanamo would be welcome news, it may not be great news, depending on how the U.S. deals with the prisoners there, with their unconstitutional military commissions system, and the general policy of coercive interrogation and detention set up as a wide-spread gulag, including both traditional military and CIA prisons around the world (and even in the U.S., if you include a few Navy military brigs).

Hence this news leads me to say, so what? I'll wait to see what they devise. The Bush Administration took certain "high profile" prisoners out of CIA prisons, where they were tortured and sent them to... Guantanamo. Whether or not this was an improvement for the prisoners, which included so-called 9/11 "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I'll leave for them to say.

Already, the Post is acting as a conduit for the subtle preparation of public opinion for something unacceptable (emphasis added):
Any plan will probably address whether to also abolish the military commission system and, if so, what kind of legal framework can be substituted to put detainees on trial.
As I noted here in a posting on November 10, NO to Proposal for New Terrorist Courts, the Obama team (or some members of it) are considering the construction of some new kind of "terrorist" court.
The new courts appear to be the brainchild of Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who described them as "some sort of hybrid" legal system, involving military commissions that would "both be and appear to be fundamentally fair in light of the circumstances." Tribe says we'll just have to trust Obama on this, and give him "the benefit of the doubt"....

What struck me about Obama/Tribe's plan for a "hybrid legal system" was its similarity to the old proposal by soon-to-be-former Attorney General (and stooge) Michael Mukasey to establish "national security courts". Where Anthony Romero looks at the Moussaoui and Padilla prosecutions and sees the sufficient functioning of the current legal system, Mukasey, in an article published in the Wall Street Journal in August 2007, describes a situation where "current institutions and statutes are not well suited to even the limited task of supplementing what became, after Sept. 11, 2001, principally a military effort to combat Islamic terrorism."

Mukasey's argument for a new special kind of court in which to try "terrorists" sounds suspiciously like what is known thus far about the Obama/Tribe proposal.
There is already a legal framework to put detainees on trial -- the federal justice system. The quote from the Post at the beginning of this comment is another trial balloon. We must be vigilant as the old order intends to do everything it can to insinuate itself, or rather perpetuate itself, in this new administration. It's unclear to what degree Obama and his allies can counter this, or even have the will to do so.

The ACLU said at the time of the Tribe discussion:
The fact is, the government is going to have to bear the burden of proof. Can you try these individuals in a criminal court, or a military commission under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and come forward with the proof that will stand up in courts of law that are governed by the Constitution, and if it can't, you've got to release them. That's our system.
H/T Kula2316 at Daily Kos

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