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Yesterday Obama spoke on the torture issue, Guantanamo, state secrets and national security. The speech was a mixed bag. Some very good stuff...some, not so good. Transcript here.
Why Obama rejects the torture regime of Bush/Cheney...
What's more, they (harsh interrogations, i.e. torture) undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists and increase the will of our enemies to fight us while decreasing the will of others to work with America.
They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts; they undermined them. And that is why I ended them once and for all.
Why Guantanamo must be closed...
Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped Al Qaida recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo, likely, created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.
How the Guantanamo problem was created initially...
The Supreme Court that invalidated the system of prosecution at Guantanamo in 2006 was overwhelmingly appointed by Republican presidents, not wild-eyed liberals. In other words, the problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility. The problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place.
Where Obama is making a mistake...
..even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases, because evidence may be tainted, but who, nonetheless, pose a threat to the security of the United States.
We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category. We must have fair procedures so that we don't make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.
We already have clear, lawful standards for those who can't be prosecuted because of prisoner abuse or government malfeasance. If their cases cannot be proven, these prisoners should be deported. That is the price a nation of laws pays when it's highest leaders decide to construct an illegal torture regime.
Obama, like Bush before him, simply doesn't like the clear, lawful standards we already have in place to deal with these cases of government abuse and the unlawful treatment of prisoners. So, Obama creates a whole brand new category of law even though his duty is to execute laws, not make them.
Al Qaida terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture, like other prisoners of war, must be prevented from attacking us again. Having said that, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can't be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone. And that's why my administration has begun to reshape the standards that apply to ensure that they are in line with the rule of law
...our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred. Our goal is not to avoid a legitimate legal framework. In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine in that United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight. And so going forward, my administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime, that our efforts are consistent with all values and our Constitution.
"prolonged detention". Give that two word phrase some thought. Those are the words of tyrants. "develop an appropriate legal regime"...because Obama, like Bush before him, doesn't like the "legal regime" we already have.
No, Obama didn't create the mess. But that is no excuse for his suggestion for a totally new, backward looking method of "prolonged detention" for prisoners we can't try in court.
Obama isn't really setting a new direction here. He is merely making the unlawfulness of the Bush/Cheney regime his own.
Neo-cons will applaud Obama for agreeing with Bush/Cheney on indefinite detention....but it is our nation who will suffer the consequences, just as it is now suffering the consequences of the lawlessness of Bush/Cheney.