Ron Radosh

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

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 Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should be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.”

TPM did not let its readers know that the CCR is not exactly a “civil liberties” group. To be more accurate, the group, “Discover the Networks” reports, was formed in 1966 by a group of far left-wing and pro-Communist lawyers, including the Old Leftists Arthur Kinoy, Morton Stavis, William Kunstler and Ben Smith. In the old days, it would accurately have been described as a classic Communist front group.

CCR’s views on the political and psychological roots of anti-American terrorism, the Network site notes, “were summarized in March 2002 by the organization’s President, Michael Ratner, who said: “If the U.S. government truly wants its people to be safer and wants terrorist threats to diminish, it must make fundamental changes in its foreign policies … particularly its unqualified support for Israel, and its embargo of Iraq, its bombing of Afghanistan, and its actions in Saudi Arabia. [These] continue to anger people throughout the region, and to fertilize the ground where terrorists of the future will take root.”

Recently, they were in the forefront of defending extremist radical counsel Lynne Stewart, “who in February 2005 was convicted on charges that she had illegally ‘facilitated and concealed communications’ between her client, the incarcerated ‘blind sheik’ Omar Abdel Rahman, and members of his Egyptian terrorist organization, the Islamic Group, which has ties to al Qaeda. CCR called Stewart’s indictment in 2004 ‘an attack on attorneys who defend controversial figures, and an attempt to deprive these clients of the zealous representation that may be required.'” In the group’s eyes, it is more important to defend a counsel who violates the law by helping a terrorist she is supposedly representing, than seeing to it that a terrorist like the blind sheik will be prevented from ever again threatening the citizens of our country.

Other liberal media outlets have joined TPM in preparing to go on the offensive in case the Obama administration carries through with its plan to put our security before the rights of terrorists. The Nation website carries a column by Ari Melber who simply calls the plans for an executive order “a terrible idea,” and informs the President that he should know “that the executive branch operates at the nadir of constitutional power when acting without the cooperation of Congress, even in the national security area.”

Quoting Senator Russ Feingold, Melber notes that Feingold has written the President that
“preventive detention ‘violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional,'” and that “detention without trial ‘is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world.'” And Melber adds an update from the ACLU, which accuses Obama “of parroting [Bush’s] detention policies.”

If the original Washington Post article was meant as a trial balloon, the Left has acted immediately to call out its forces to swamp the White House with opposition. It behooves the rest of us, who see it as a welcome shot of wisdom as President Obama comes face to face with reality, to also let him know that not everyone shares the point of view of the ACLU and The Center for Constitutional Rights.