Eric Holder asserted on Wednesday that terrorism suspects indefinitely detained by the United States would be granted opportunities for due process, both before and during their detention. But he declined to detail how and where such appeals could take place, telling members of Congress that such specifics had yet to be agreed upon by the administration.
At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Attorney General was pressed early and often on the Obama White House's approach to detainee policy. Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), in particular, asked why the president supported a system that would essentially transfer the Guantanamo structure (holding suspected terrorists without trial for an indefinite period of time) to another location.
Holder acknowledged that there could be a group of detainees who fell into that category. But, he added, "It will only happen pursuant to really pretty robust due process procedures."
"There is a third category," said Holder, "where [detainees] will be detained in a way that we think is consistent with due process both in the determination as to whether or not they should be detained and then with regard to periodic review as to whether or not that detention should occur..."
Holder subsequently pledged to "work with members of this committee and Congress," to find "the exact parameters of that due process."
The remarks aren't likely to be enough to assuage the growing number of civil libertarian critics of the Obama White House. The entire notion of preventative detention, indeed, is problematic for the community who contend that the president is setting up a dangerous precedent in which suspects would be jailed on suspicion and not granted a trial to appeal their imprisonment.
Holder did not specifically address the forms of due process that would be granted to those detained indefinitely, saying, vaguely, that they would be "consistent with the laws of war" and American values.
"We have not decided [these issues]," he said at one point, "both with regard to where that review will occur and how frequently."
As for GITMO detainees that did not fall into "third category," Holder stressed that the Department of Justice and Intelligence Community was making robust reviews before deciding who was transferred and to where.
"The determination we have made for the releases we have so far ordered, which are above 50 I believe at this point... is that these people do not poise a danger to the United States and that by releasing or transferring them we can do so with measures in place that we minimize the dangers that they pose to this country."
UPDATE: Later in the hearing, Senator Russ Feingold addressed the matter, telling Holder that due process protections were not enough to remove his broader concerns about indefinite detention programs.
"Any system of indefinite detention raises issue even with the kind of due process detention you discussed," said the Wisconsin Democrat. "I do think this could be a very big mistake especially because of how a system could be perceived around the world."