ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, executive order, incarcerate, indefinitely, Obama administration, TPM
With most of our celebrity-crazed media and public focused on the death of Michael Jackson, I guess it was the perfect time for a Friday night news dump like this:
“Obama administration officials, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, are crafting language for an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.
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.”
Then came the non-denial denial and the and semantic games from the White House:
“White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said that there is no executive order and that the administration has not decided whether to issue one. But one administration official suggested that the White House is already trying to build support for an order.”
Notice the difference in language? There “is” no executive order. The WaPo article didn’t say there “is” an order, it said officials “are crafting” language for an executive order. I had hoped we were through with these kinds of slippery word games.
But the statement by “one administration official” gives it away. I assume the White House wouldn’t waste their time “trying to build support” for an action that they don’t intend to pursue.
There was also this strange claim:
“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.”
One such civil liberties group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, told TPM:
“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.”
The ACLU released this statement:
“This is not change – this is more of the same. If President Obama issues an executive order authorizing indefinite detention, he’ll be repeating the same mistakes of George Bush, and his policies will be destined to fail as were his predecessor’s. How justice is served in America should not be an open question in a country where we have a rule of law and a time-tested criminal justice system. Throwing people into prison without charge, conviction or providing them with a trial is about as un-American as you can get. While President Obama might be experiencing difficulty with Congress when it comes to implementing his decision to close Guantánamo, the answer is not to issue an executive order authorizing a system which is unconstitutional and counter to the most fundamental American values.”
That doesn’t sound to me like they “encouraged the administration” to “do it through executive order.”
To me this issue, call it indefinite incarceration, preventive detention, or any other name, goes beyond Barack Obama’s presidency, the “war on terror,” or the closing of Guantanamo. This is a fundamental question of what kind of country we are.
We are the United States of America, damn it. We don’t hold people indefinitely without charges and without trials. If we don’t have enough evidence to bring people to trial, or if the evidence we do have was obtained through torture, we release them, plain and simple.
The danger in this is the precedent. What happens the next time we have a President Nixon, who draws up an enemies list and decides to imprison people indefinitely, and what happens if not just alleged terrorists but American citizens are among those “certain people” who are imprisoned based on nothing more than suspicion. His or her reasoning will be, President Bush got away with it, President Obama got away with it, who is going to stop me?
It’s time to put an end to this before it goes any further.
There is a lesson here for all who are quick to criticize America’s policies. It is simply that we do not know of the underlying details which form policy and we often fail to appreciate the demands of leadership in the pursuit of doing what is best for America. We should think more and speak less.
The Bush administration, like them or not, understood the force in this world which are collectively acting against America in less than friendly ways.
Mr. Obama is now getting a bitter taste of the realities of the world. For America’s sake, I hope he drinks long and hard.
Deward Bowles said:
I disagree with Obama on this and I could not make that any more plain.
Good piece Des.
What would you suggest as an alternative?
Trial? Good idea. Someone might suggest that we get on with it so we can find them guilty and send them out back behind the port-a-potty and deliver the capital punishment they deserve.
Let them go? Nope. They’ll be back on the battlefield to dole out more terrorism. One only has to look at the history associated with that policy to know there is little chance of any other outcome.
Keep them in jail? Hmmm. They do offer a source of intelligence which may lead to arrests before something bad happens. Perhaps one of them may lead us to other valuable information. In the meantime they don’t have it so bad while they are detained; they get to pray to Allah three times a day, play soccer and eat three squares a day.
Granted I’m painting a broad picture here, but the options are few. And yes, I hear the argument; that these people deserve trial and “indefinite” incarceration is viewed as immoral and it serves somehow to define America in a negative way.
As I see it, we are being defined in a positive way and we will be seen as saving the innocents from the actions of this human swill in the event we let them go.
Taking a larger perspective on the issue, Islam isn’t just another religion. We’re not just dealing with a small band of David Koresh style fanatics. Islam is a fascist ideology which turns its followers into drones who can’t wait to blow themselves up while taking scores of people with them – all in the name of Allah. It is in the Quran. I’ve read it.
America has failed to understand what it is we are actually dealing with. They will not stop until the world has succumbed to Islam.
My only hope is that America wakes up to the realities of what we’re dealing with. To do that we have to put down the idea we can just walk up to one of our captives, hand him a cookie with a glass of milk and asking him nicely where he placed the bomb with the hope he tells us before it goes off.
My other hope is that if the bomb does go off, it strikes a personal chord with those who believe we can reason with these people. Maybe then they’ll get it.