Saturday, June 27, 2009

Obama Takes the Bush Line on Guantánamo Detainees

The solution is military tribunals or trying these individuals in the world court. It is inexcusable for the President, a constitutional professor, to be seemingly taking the same position his predecessor did. Which was an outrage.

The Obama administration is considering forgoing legislation and issuing an executive order that would authorize the president to incarcerate some terrorism suspects indefinitely, White House officials said Friday.

Such an order would be controversial — seemingly aligning the administration with a disputed legal doctrine of former President George W. Bush, whose lawyers held that the president had sweeping authority in wartime to imprison those he deemed threats to national security.

Obama officials sought to play down the significance of the discussions by an administration panel, saying that consideration of such an order was still in an early phase and subject to change. They said that lawyers had not written a specific proposal and that nothing had been submitted to the White House for review by senior officials.

Still, the possibility of the order appeared to reflect increasing frustration within the administration over the difficulties posed by the effort to meet Mr. Obama’s commitment to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by January and the dwindling options for dealing with the detainees before then.

This from the Huffington Post:
First, there is no legitimate reason for a government official to claim anonymity here. It simply echoes the official line from the article, which is likely to be Robert Gibbs' line when reporters press the issue in Monday's briefing.

Second, the response is a classic dodge -- there is no executive order now, and no decision has been made. Of course, the article is not reporting that an order has already been issued. The news is that Obama officials are preparing to advance President Bush's Gitmo detention regime through a unilateral executive order soon, cutting out Congress, and thus any democratic accountability, while extending a controversial, unpopular policy.

Even though Obama's National Archives speech asserted the importance of working with other branches of government. ("We must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded," he said, "They can't be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone.")

Even though the Bush administration already tried this unilateral tack, only to have its system invalidated by the Supreme Court precisely because Congress was shut out. (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.)

And even though decades of legal precedent show, as Professor/President Obama knows, that the executive branch operates at the nadir of its constitutional power when acting without the cooperation of Congress, even in the national security arena. (A point most famously established for President Truman in the Youngstown case.)

Obama's argument for preventive detention "violates basic American values and is likely unconstitutional," warned Sen. Russ Feingold in a recent letter to the President, cautioning that detention without trial "is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world." Advancing such a controversial precedent on American soil, without the participation of Congress or the American people, would be disastrous.