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Posts Tagged ‘Guantánamo Bay’

Will Obama send U.S. citizens to Guantanamo? Outrage as President signs off law to detain home-grown terror suspects indefinitely

Posted by Admin on December 21, 2011

  • Drops his threat of a veto against the defence bill even though he didn’t like certain controversial provisions
  • Now American citizens can be arrested within the U.S. and sent to Guantanamo if they’re linked to Al Queda or Taliban
  • Senate voted 86-13 to pass the massive $662billion defence bill


Last updated at 2:00 PM on 16th December 2011

President Barack Obama faced a civil liberties backlash today after he  signed a law that will allow terror suspects to be held indefinitely- even raising the prospects of U.S. citizens being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

The controversial move, revealed last night, effectively extends the laws of the battlefield to American soil.

The move shows a clear hardening of Mr Obama’s anti-terror policies, and a major shift from the liberal stance that helped him sweep into power three years ago.

Under fire: President Obama is expected to sign the defence authorization bill, in spite of stipulations that allow prisoners to be held indefinitely

After campaigning heavily on the need to close the controversial terrorist detention base at Guantanamo Bay, he failed to deliver when met with legal obstacles.

Now, showing that he has truly moved to the opposite end of the spectrum, he is endorsing the tools and civil powers that he once rallied against.

‘It’s something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration,’ said Human Rights Watch spokesman Tom Malinowski.

‘It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent,’ Mr Malinowski continued.

Considering he is now in the midst of running for re-election, comparisons between Mr Obama and Mr Bush are certainly not something the President wants going into the 2012 race.

Civil rights groups are outraged after he dropped the threat of a veto Wednesday, meaning the bill will become a law and implement several controversial provisions, like the ability to keep all terror suspects imprisoned.

Though there are already 46 ‘indefinite detainees’ at Guantanamo currently, this new provision would allow the government to consider  Americans with close ties to Al Queda or the Taliban.

Controversial: The military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has always been a divisive topic because of the limited rights given to prisoners

One part of the debate has been whether terror suspects should be prosecuted as criminals and tried in a civilian court, as Mr Obama would like, or if they are deemed ‘enemy combatants’ and given trials in military courts which have less civil liberties for the defendants, which Republican lawmakers would prefer.

The defence bill with the controversial position shows that in light of the continued setbacks in the push for closure of Guantanamo, the Republicans are seemingly winning the fight.

Head office: Mr Obama has consistently wanted the ability to have prisoners tried in civilian courts

‘While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counter-terrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength,’ the White House statement said.

Congress passed the massive $662 billion defence bill Thursday , the Senate voting 86-13 for the measure. It would also authorize money for military personnel, weapons systems, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and national security programs in the Energy Department for the financial year beginning October 1.

The legislation is $27billion less than Obama wanted and $43billion less than Congress gave the Pentagon this year, a reflection of deficit-driven federal budgets, the end of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House voted 283-136 for the measure late on Wednesday. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said Thursday the cooperation was a ‘little ray of sunshine’ in a bitterly divided Washington.

It also shows some foreign-policy muscle in pre-emptively freezing hundreds of millions of dollars tentatively headed to Pakistan in aid unless the defence department gets firm assurances that the country will help cut off the production and proliferation of homemade bombs.

In addition to the concerns over a curtailing of civil liberties, some critics speculate that the bill may give leeway to Republicans in next year’s presidential elections by highlighting Mr Obama’s flip-flopping on the issue.

 ‘It’s really distressing that the White House clearly shares the concerns of the national security establishment [against the bill], but feels like a veto is not politically sustainable,’ said Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the non-profit National Security Network.


The camp, which he once called a ‘sad chapter in American history’ seems to be one that will be going on for longer as his plans to close the controversial camp have failed his repeated attempts.

Different rules: Military and civilian courts give detainees different rights, and the new bill will allow the military rules to continue without civilian trials

Originally opened by President George Bush in January 2002, the camp was originally used as a place to store particularly dangerous prisoners as they were not given any rights granted under the Geneva Conventions.

Though their legal standing has changed slightly throughout the years, the camp is widely seen as a symbol of diminishing civil rights standards.

During the 2008 campaign, Mr Obama promised to close the camp within his first year in office. He first took action within his first two days in office, issuing a suspension of prosecutions at the camp.

Even though he followed up with an executive order, his efforts were thwarted by bureaucracy and legal posturing.

First, they found the proper legal files on individual prisoners were not kept up to date, preventing a quick reassignment to other prisons elsewhere.

The next problem was where to put them when moved out of Cuba: options in Kansas, Michigan and Illinois were exhausted after the local legislators put up fights because their constituents didn’t want to be living near terrorists.

The biggest blow to the effort came in January of this year, when President Obama signed the Defence Authorization Bill stopping the talk of transferring the prisoners to mainland America or foreign countries who had offered to house the prisoners.

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Guantanamo Closure Recedes Into Distance

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Thursday 23 December 2010

by: Jim Lobe   | Inter Press Service | Report

Guantanamo Closure Recedes Into Distance
Joint Task Force Guantanamo’s Camp Delta. (Photo: Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Nistas)

Washington – President Barack Obama’s hopes of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility appear as far from being realised as ever in the wake of new legislation approved by Congress this week.

Wednesday’s approval by the Senate of an amendment banning the use of Pentagon funds for 2011 to transfer detainees at Guantanamo, the U.S. naval base on Cuba, to the United States or its territories appears to guarantee that the facility will remain open for business at least through next September.

The House of Representatives, which passed a similar provision last week, is expected to quickly approve the Senate version.

Despite the administration’s objections, the amendment is unlikely to be vetoed by Obama. It was strongly denounced by human rights groups that have campaigned for Guantanamo’s closure since it first began receiving detainees allegedly captured in what became the George W. Bush administration‘s “global war on terror” in 2002.

At its height, it held more than 700 terrorist suspects. The facility currently holds 174 prisoners of whom 90 – most of them Yemenis – have reportedly been cleared for repatriation, and 36 are due to be prosecuted in federal courts, although, with the Senate action, that plan may now be in jeopardy.

The remaining 48 are being held indefinitely without trial because evidence of their past ties to terrorist groups is unlikely to be admissible in a court – in some cases, due to its acquisition by torture – and because the government believes that they would return to such activities if they were released.

“Today’s vote will only serve to further erode the U.S. government’s human rights record and hamper the administration’s ability to bring terrorism suspects to justice,” said Vienna Colucci, a senior policy advisor at the U.S. section of Amnesty International (AIUSA) shortly after the Senate attached the amendment to the 2011 defence authorisation bill.

“This law will also effectively prevent the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, prolonging a human rights scandal whose closure national security and foreign policy experts agree is essential to improve U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and mend the international standing of the United States,” she added.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also assailed the bill, noting that it will effectively prevent detainees, such as alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, from being tried in civilian courts has said he intends to do.

Calling the Senate’s action a “reckless and irresponsible affront to the rule of law”, Tom Malinowski, the head of HRW’s Washington office charged that “Congress has denied the president the only legally sustainable and globally legitimate means to incarcerate terrorists.”

The amendment’s attachment to the defence bill – which authorises the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars by the Pentagon next year – comes on the heels of a report by the investigative group Pro Publica and the Washington Post that the administration is drafting an executive order that would set up a system to periodically review the cases of Guantanamo prisoners under indefinite detention without trial.

Unlike the Bush administration’s military-run “annual review boards” – the now-defunct mechanism used to assess whether such detainees could be safely repatriated – the draft plan reportedly would establish review panels whose members would be drawn from a number of different government agencies.

In addition, detainees would be represented by attorneys and gain greater access to the evidence compiled by the government against them than was the case under Bush’s review boards, which were denounced by human rights and civil liberties groups as flagrant violations of elemental due process.

While praising some of the proposed changes, some of those same groups have expressed serious reservations about the reported plan.

Noting that an executive order, which can easily be modified or lifted, was preferable to a law enacted by Congress, Elisa Massimino, the director of Human Rights First said any preventive detention regime – whether administrative or legislative – “pose(s) a serious threat to fundamental rights and are no substitute for criminal justice”.

“Reliance on indefinite detention as a path of least resistance is part of how we ended up in the Guantanamo mess in the first place,” she said.

“Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted under our criminal justice system,” added Laura Murphy, director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She noted that federal courts have successfully completed hundreds of trials of suspected terrorists over the past decade.

During his press conference Wednesday, Obama himself stressed that he still hoped to close Guantanamo, calling it “probably the number one recruitment tool” used by al Qaeda and other “jihadist organisations”.

“One of the toughest problems is what to do with people that we know are dangerous, that …have engaged in terrorist activity, are proclaimed enemies of the United States, but because of the manner in which they were originally captured, the circumstances right after 9/11 in which they (were) interrogated, it becomes difficult to try them whether in an Article III court or in a military commission,” he went on, adding, “Releasing them at this stage could potentially create greater danger for the American people.”

“The bottom line is that striking this balance between our security and making sure that we are consistent with our values and our Constitution is not an easy task, but ultimately that’s what’s required for practical reasons,” he said.

The result, according to Adam Serwer, writing on a Washington Post blog, “is basically what we’ve come to expect from the Obama administration on security and civil liberties. Having promised to reverse the trajectory of Bush-era national security policies, Obama has settled on making them marginally more lawful and humane.”

“It’s not nothing, but it’s not what Obama promised,” he added.

Meanwhile, however, the Senate action prompted much greater concern among rights groups because it appears to rule out both Guantanamo’s closure over the next year and the possibility that detainees held there will be tried in the federal courts.

That leaves the much-criticised, error-plagued military commissions, which have successfully prosecuted only five cases in the last eight years, as the only tribunal where detainees can be tried.

Attorney General Eric Holder had strongly opposed the amendment, arguing in a statement released earlier this month that it would “tak(e) away one of our most potent weapons in the fight against terrorism”.

In addition to banning the transfer onto U.S. territory of any Guantanamo detainees, the amendment forbids the government from transferring them to another country unless the defence secretary certifies that such a transfer will not jeopardise U.S. security.

*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at

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