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Ron Radosh

How to Deal with Terrorists: Obama Channels George W. Bush

June 28th, 2009 - 4:57 pm

With the Obama administration promising to close Guantanamo, it has become apparent that the President and his advisors have suddenly realized that they have left themselves no wiggle room when it comes to figuring out what to do with dangerous terrorists who previously would have been confined there.

Hence, The Washington Post reports that the administration is preparing an executive order that would give it the authority to incarcerate suspects indefinitely. If this sounds to readers somewhat similar to the policy candidate Obama fiercely attacked as repressive Bush administration policy,  that is because it is. As the Post column explains, “Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war.”  The article also claims that the administration has the approval of civil liberties group for the new strategy: ” ‘Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order,’ the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should be prosecuted or released.”

The reason why the administration has moved in this direction is clear. It turns out that after reviewing the cases of those currently held at Guantanamo, authorities realized that half of the cases cannot be tried in either military commissions or prosecuted in federal court, because the evidence against them is highly classified and has been provided by foreign intelligence services. As the news report notes: “Three months into the Justice Department’s reviews, several officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released.” In other words, the Bush administration had good reason to adopt its policy on dangerous detainees.  And the Obama administration is evidently worried that pending Congressional legislation could take control away from the White House, and result in putting the rights of suspected terrorists ahead of protecting national security.

This report, appearing in yesterday’s paper, enraged Obama supporters on the Left. Josh Marshall’s “Talking Points Memo” (TPM) accused the administration of “a tendency to mimic the Bushies on war on terror tactics.” And the website contradicted the administration claim that they have been encouraged by civil liberties groups. Reporter Zachary Roth went to find out what they thought to a group called The Center for Constitutional Rights. He was told by a CCR staff member that “prolonged imprisonment without trial is exactly the Guantanamo system that the President promised to shut down. Whatever form it takes – from Congress or the President’s pen – it is anathema to the basic principles of American law and the courts will find it unconstitutional.”

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