What would candidate Obama say upon hearing the news that President Obama’s attorney general acknowledged yesterday that the administration will continue to hold terror suspects without trial indefinitely?
Remember Candidate Obama? He was the guy who went around the country breathlessly accusing the Bush administration of violating the Constitution, civil liberties, and our national values by holding terror suspects without trial in a military prison in Cuba.
In his national security speech on Aug. 1, 2007, candidate Obama proclaimed, “What’s more, in the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantanamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power.”
He went on:
I also will reject a legal framework that does not work. There has been only one conviction at Guantanamo. It was for a guilty plea on material support for terrorism. The sentence was 9 months. There has not been one conviction of a terrorist act. I have faith in America’s courts, and I have faith in our JAGs. As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.
That was during the campaign. Back then, it was a simple moral choice: America’s core values were on one side and holding terrorists without trial was on the other. But President Obama’s actions have shown the lie to candidate Obama’s rhetoric.
Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that only about a quarter of the detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay would ever get a trial — civilian or military. Sen. Lindsey Graham said he thought roughly 25 percent of detainees would stand trial, and Holder said that figure was “about right,” the Associated Press reported.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a very huge number” go to trial, Holder reiterated.
“What we’re trying to do is make the world understand that we’re trying a different approach,” Holder said later. That different approach would end al Qaeda’s ability to use Guantanamo Bay to recruit terrorists.
What’s the different approach?
“The thought we had was that there would be some kind of review with regard to the initial determination and then a periodic review,” he said.
In other words, a judge would review the evidence and determine whether detainees should be held, then would periodically re-review. That’s it.
Apparently Holder thinks al Qaeda members have such respect for our judiciary that they will consider fair and just any judicial determination that one of their brothers should be held indefinitely without trial.
Of course, all Guantanamo Bay detainees already went through a review process before being incarcerated there. Holder pretends, as his boss has all along, that such reviews never took place and that Muslims were simply swept off the streets of foreign lands at random and brought to Guantanamo Bay without any effort on our part to determine whether they were threats to Americans.
Once again, the harsh realities of a difficult war with multiple moral gray areas have forced President Obama to contradict candidate Obama’s simplistic moral grandstanding and come down largely on the side of the previous administration, with a few minor administrative adjustments.