Monday, May 4, 2009

"Where you stand depends on where you sit"

For example, there's where you stood when you sat on a stool at a campaign town hall meeting.

And then there's the view from the Big Chair in the Oval Office, which apparently can make you stand in a very different place: U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts.
The Obama administration is moving toward reviving the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which was a target of critics during the Bush administration, including Mr. Obama himself.

Officials said the first public moves could come as soon as next week, perhaps in filings to military judges at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, outlining an administration plan to amend the Bush administration’s system to provide more legal protections for terrorism suspects.

Continuing the military commissions in any form would probably prompt sharp criticism from human rights groups as well as some of Mr. Obama’s political allies because the troubled system became an emblem of the effort to use Guantánamo to avoid the American legal system.

Officials who work on the Guantánamo issue say administration lawyers have become concerned that they would face significant obstacles to trying some terrorism suspects in federal courts. Judges might make it difficult to prosecute detainees who were subjected to brutal treatment or for prosecutors to use hearsay evidence gathered by intelligence agencies.

Civil liberties and human rights groups accuse President Obama of betraying a key campaign promise.
Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Mr. Obama had pledged to return the country to the rule of law and that “continuing with the military commission system would be a retreat from that promise.”

Gabor Rona, the international legal director of Human Rights First, said military commissions would only be necessary if the administration wanted to assure convictions that might not otherwise be certain.

“The administration is making a huge mistake,” Mr. Rona said, “if they believe getting convictions through suspect methods is more valuable than letting justice take its course.”

I hope that these groups hold President Obama's feet to the fire, unflinchingly and unrelentingly, on this issue. President Obama needs to pay the full political price -- not for continuing a policy necessary to the security of the United States and its citizens, but for opposing it out of ignorance and political pandering in the first place.

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