POLITICS

Civil Liberties Groups Deny Support For Obama "Prolonged Detention" Policies

08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So, here's the story: The Obama administration wants to close Guantanamo Bay. But Congress is filled with people who either inanely claim that housing the Gitmo detainees in the United States would be a terrible idea because their magicks and mutant hypno-beams would bring about the certain destruction of America. Or, there are those in Congress who have to worry about constituents who might buy that insane argument. So Congress has been no help at all! That started the Obama administration thinking: "Hmmm, well maybe we could cut Congress out of the conversation entirely by establishing some extra-special, unilateral system of "prolonged detentions." Surely we're comfortable with the Executive Branch doing this, right?

Actually, as it turns out, probably not! But no worries, because some anonymous White House official said:

"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.

That led many to wonder, "Wow. Which 'civil liberties group' has, on this day, taken complete leave of its senses?"

As it turns out, most civil liberties organizations have responded very poorly to the idea that they support the idea of detention-by-executive-order. Via the Washington Independent:

But representatives of civil liberties groups were still stunned to see the quote. At a meeting with the administration's task force on detentions policy earlier this month, most of the major civil liberties groups explicitly urged the administration to instead either charge Guantanamo Bay detainees and future terrorism captives with crimes in federal court or release them. Now, with the prospect of a new administration creating a regimen for holding detainees for an unbounded period without facing charges -- a major target for civil libertarian fights with the Bush administration -- on the horizon, several groups that hailed Obama's election are vowing to fight the proposal.

"Any continued policies of prolonged detention without trial of Guantanamo detainees simply fails to turn the page on the counterproductive policy of the Bush administration," said Human Rights First's Devon Chaffee, who attended the meeting with the task force. "We oppose any prolonged detention without trial beyond what is already authorized under the laws of war. If an individual committed acts of terrorism, they should be tried in our regular federal courts."

The Washington Independent reporter, Spencer Ackerman, goes on to note that at a June 9, 2009 task force that was "empanelled by Obama's January 22 executive order to recommend changes to U.S. detention policy," civil liberties organizations on hand made their position pretty well known: "Representatives of Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, Human Rights First, New York University's Brennan Center, the Constitution Project, Amnesty International, the Center for National Security Studies, the Open Society Institute and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spent about two hours making a case against preventive detention, as well as offering their perspectives on military commissions, the repatriation of Guantanamo detainees, and the detention facility at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Field."

Isn't that pretty much ALL the civil liberties organizations?

The Center For Constitutional Rights, one of the few major civil-liberties groups that did not attend the June 9 meeting, "would mobilize to oppose any effort to create a preventive detention scheme," said spokeswoman Jen Nessel. "Whether it's in the form of an executive order or legislation, indefinite detention without charge, trial or due process goes against our most fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law."

Uhm, okay. Well, since the quote, implicating the pretend civil liberties organization, was made public, the White House has reversed itself, "saying that the administration wasn't drafting an executive order and was unlikely to issue one." So, there you have it, once again the Obama administration has lost the game of three-dimensional chess it was playing with itself, for justice, just as they intended.

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