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You Break It, You Bought It, America
May 21, 2009 9:58 AM   Subscribe

In his latest national security speech, President Obama unequivocally reaffirms his commitment to closing GITMO. President Obama's strong statements reaffirming his administration's commitment to cleaning up the legal and ethical mess the Bush administration left behind comes just after congressional Democrats recently saw fit to capitulate to the Republican minority by defunding President Obama's efforts to close GITMO, ostensibly to ensure that President Obama proceeds prudently and avoids setting the terrorists loose on America's strip malls. But others interpret these latest maneuvers from the "weak-kneed" congressional Dems as reflecting a sudden acute case of the political jitters, pointing out that, despite all the fearful talk of the imminent dangers of possible terrorists being held and tried on American soil, it's not as though we haven't done it before.

Some interesting comments and observations from a Justice Department insider, not only on the subject of Guantanamo, but also on the possibility of future Bush administration prosecutions here.
posted by saulgoodman (176 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Crap. The contents at my first link changed. Here's a better link to the full transcript of the speech at NY Times.

Any chance a mod can correct the main FPP link with this one?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:03 AM on May 21, 2009


Now let's see if Obama's actions match his words.
posted by grounded at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


No we can't!
posted by The Bellman at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great speech by Obama. Cheney's speech was a bundle of half-truths.

I'm so tired of the GOP painting these terrorist suspects as supervillans. Its like they think Dr. Doom is going to break out of a SuperMax prison. Not. Gonna. Happen.

The way Cheney phrased it, he avoided talking about the fact that they were going to go to US prisons. He made it sound like they were just going to be released. What a liar.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2009


The speech was for the rubes and the sycophants in the press. In private, the truth comes out: Obama will not permit Holder to mount even one prosecution.

Obama repeatedly invoked the paradigm of The War on Terror to justify some extreme policies -- see my post of earlier today on this practice -- beginning with his rather startling declaration that he will work to create a system of "preventive detention" for accused Terrorists without a trial, in order to keep locked up indefinitely people who, in his words, "cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people." In other words, even as he paid repeated homage to "our values" and "our timeless ideals," he demanded the power (albeit with unspecified judicial and Congressional oversight) to keep people in prison with no charges or proof of any crime having been committed, all while emphasizing that this "war" will continue for at least ten years. - Glenn Greenwald
posted by Joe Beese at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Should lawyers from the Department of Justice be commenting on political blogs about whether or not the President has shut the door on prosecutions of former administration officials? That seems wrong to me.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2009


This makes me feel better. I hate that the Democrats always run scared every time the Republicans yell, "weak on defense." I'm not sure why they always seem to buy into the right-wing's framing of arguments but I'm glad that, at least on this issue, Obama isn't playing along.
posted by octothorpe at 10:09 AM on May 21, 2009


“there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. . . . I am not going to release [these] individuals” -- Obama (L.A. Times.)
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
posted by christonabike at 10:09 AM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Cheney's speech was a bundle of half-truths."

At least he's telling half-truths now, instead of complete lies.

I didn't RTFA
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2009


Now let's see if Obama's actions match his words.

They have up to this point. If you saw the speech, he refuted, point by point, all the criticisms that he was going back on his promises. People didn't study what he said and did and just thought that he agreed with them on military commisisons and other issues. He was in favor of them from the get go, just not the Bush versions.

His promises on Gitmo and torture he has held true to--closing Gitmo, stopping torture.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


grounded: "Now let's see if Obama's actions match his words."

You don't have to wait.

And so the system and its horrors keep churning on, regardless of the liberal credentials of its current managers. An overseer of a torture chamber and director of death squads, Stanley McChrystal, has now been put in charge of the "good war" in Afghanistan and its inexorable spread into Pakistan. The war crime in Iraq continues unabated, with an increasingly shattered army of desperate, doped-up, burned-out soldiers still loose in a crumbling, broken land, while vast permanent bases are being expanded to house the tens of thousands who will remain behind even after a still- uncertain "withdrawal" plan is completed. - Chris Floyd
posted by Joe Beese at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


That is what I mean when I say that we need to focus on the future. I recognize that many still have a strong desire to focus on the past. When it comes to the actions of the last eight years, some Americans are angry; others want to re-fight debates that have been settled, most clearly at the ballot box in November. And I know that these debates lead directly to a call for a fuller accounting, perhaps through an Independent Commission.

I have opposed the creation of such a Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.


That doesn't sound like good news. That sounds like moving on, without seeking any accountability at all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2009


...just after congressional Democrats recently saw fit to capitulate to the Republican minority...

Actually, they were "capitulating" to the majority of voters, who don't want the prisoners brought into the US.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2009


So, Obama is "committed" to closing GITMO, and yet sources say that behind closed doors, he is also considering the need for "preventative detention" to be built into our legal system. (source). That seems more than a bit contradictory, does it not?
posted by tocts at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2009


Obama repeatedly invoked the paradigm of The War on Terror to justify some extreme policies -- see my post of earlier today on this practice -- beginning with his rather startling declaration that he will work to create a system of "preventive detention" for accused Terrorists without a trial, in order to keep locked up indefinitely people who, in his words, "cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people." In other words, even as he paid repeated homage to "our values" and "our timeless ideals," he demanded the power (albeit with unspecified judicial and Congressional oversight) to keep people in prison with no charges or proof of any crime having been committed, all while emphasizing that this "war" will continue for at least ten years.

So we are to release Khalid Sheik Mohammed? Please. Because it is these prisoners he's talking about. Obama specifically referenced why: the evidence against them was obtained through torture. So we are then to let the guy who planned 9/11 go? To harm others? That is exactly wrong. By treating them as a prisoner of war and then letting them go when the war is over, he squares the circle.

I've always been opposed to calling them POW's, but this may be the only way to keep them from getting released.

Plus, "preventative detention?" Those words were not used by Obama. Its bad enough that Cheney continually uses straw men. To see someone on our side distort the words used is just saddening. Its like Greenwald feels he can't win an argument without distortions and straw men.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: "His promises on Gitmo and torture he has held true to--closing Gitmo, stopping torture."

Relocating the gulag to Bagram doesn't count as "closing Gitmo".

And the goon squad is still open for business.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have opposed the creation of such a Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.

I am also a big fan of people putting pressure on Congress to get this done. Commissions seem all good, but really they are a method of buck-passing. Remember the 9/11 Commission? It was a bipartisan effort in buck-passing. All that wishy-washy language about whose fault it was without any real assigning of blame. Did Bush get blamed for looking on "while the system was blinking red?" Nope.

It is Congress' job to investigate all of this--we need to push them to do so. They are accountable and they will have to get the job done right or they can be pushed out the door. Accountability is needed and a Commission that can't get fired won't get the job done.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2009


Ironmouth: "Plus, "preventative detention?" Those words were not used by Obama."

The rubes can't be trusted with such things.

Obama Is Said to Consider Preventive Detention Plan
posted by Joe Beese at 10:21 AM on May 21, 2009


That doesn't sound like good news. That sounds like moving on, without seeking any accountability at all.

Blazecock, Beese, etc: Check out the comments from the DOJ guy in the last link of the FPP. DOJ prosecutions are still a very live possibility. From those remarks:

That passage packs a significant amount of punch. A significant amount. Some will see this as an abandonment of a Truth Commission (which he never wanted), and thus an abandonment of the idea at getting at the truth. But I think the President only rejected a Truth Commission as a matter of process because he believes it can be addressed elsewhere (and probably because the idea of establishing such a commission in such a charged atmosphere would be tantamount to--if I may mix metaphors for a moment--ringing the dinner bell on a three-ring circus in this town).
posted by saulgoodman at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2009


I don't understand who the republican argument is for. The people making it can't possibly believe that Obama is going to take the gitmo prisoners to various suburbs in the U.S. and just release them and as low as my opinion can sometimes be of republican voters, I can't imagine them believing that, either.
posted by stavrogin at 10:24 AM on May 21, 2009


Obama Is Said to Consider Preventive Detention Plan

Beese: "Is said" by whom? And why? Why don't you ever seem to care about asking those questions?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


For all the flaws of American "supermax" prisons, being easy to escape from is not one of them. This whole kerfuffle just illustrates the insane, gripping fear that a certain political faction has aroused regarding the spectral al-Qaeda Terrorist and his America-destroying magic powers...

... either that, or the nagging, subtle guilt that in locking up these people without trial and (in some cases) severely mistreating them, whether or not they were guilty beforehand, they now have a very real reason to hold an intense, bloodthirsty grudge against America, while also being quite possibly mentally unhinged by long periods in solitary confinement with no identifiable hope of release or even fair treatment.
posted by Drexen at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2009


Obama, why the fuck did I vote for you? Why?

End the war, close the prisons, prosecute the criminals who lied to me, and end this disgraceful chapter of American history for good.
posted by saysthis at 10:26 AM on May 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


stavrogin: "I don't understand who the republican argument is for. The people making it can't possibly believe that Obama is going to take the gitmo prisoners to various suburbs in the U.S. and just release them and as low as my opinion can sometimes be of republican voters, I can't imagine them believing that, either."

Based on my conversations with conservative family members, your imagination is, frankly, rather lacking.
posted by notsnot at 10:27 AM on May 21, 2009


Cheney is full of shit. I can't believe he gets free pass on these news shows while spreading his lies.

In the words of Lewis Black: "Congress? Congress?!?!? Congress doesn't do SHIT!!"
posted by zzazazz at 10:27 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Part of the problem is that, yes, a significant amount of the American public is stupid.

There's also too many politicians who capitulate instead of stick by their principles and carefully try to explain what they're doing, in small words so those of the American public who are complete idiots understand.

It's a vicious cycle.
posted by kldickson at 10:27 AM on May 21, 2009


"Truth Commission" gives me jeebies the same way "the Homeland" does.

Are they using these Orwellian terms ironically, like some kind of govsters?
posted by rokusan at 10:28 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Relocating the gulag to Bagram doesn't count as "closing Gitmo".

Could you provide a link to a news story for that? I've been looking to see about such transfers under Obama and I can't see anything yet. But I've seen people here say that is happening, so I'm not sure what to think.

There are approximately 280 prisoners at Gitmo. The Administration wants to transfer some to other countries that would be willing to take them, some to US jails and courts for trial and some to a prisoner of war facility, which I am assuming is going to be built in the USA.

Could somebody give me an idea for a solution other than what Obama is proposing? Not just saying "he's wrong," but providing a policy alternative that would work.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


DOJ prosecutions are still a very live possibility.

Only through a selective reading of Obama's speech. He's left it up to Holder. And he doesn't want Holder spending time on this. Case closed, more or less.

I guess I'm tired of Obama's promises to restore law to our country, allowing Cheney to keep opening his fat mouth as a free man, when he and many of his Republican friends should be rotting away in Supermax cells of their own.

This speech confirms the worst, that nothing will be done, but empty words: He's passed the buck on to Congress. Congress' latest opportunity to address Pelosi's claims demonstrates that its members have no interest in pursuing investigations into illegal policies they approved during the Bush years.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:34 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Student: You don't want the war. We don't want the war. The Vietnamese don't want the war. So, why does it go on?

Nixon: [hesitates, unable to respond]

Student: You *can't* stop it, can you? Even if you *wanted* to. Cuz it's not *you*. It's the *system*. The system won't *let* you stop it.

Nixon: There's ... there's more at stake here than what you want, or what I want.

Student: Then what's the point? What's the point of being President? You're powerless!

Nixon: No! No, I'm not powerless. Becaus-, because I understand the system, I believe I can, uh... I can control it. Maybe not control it totally, but, uh... tame it enough to make it do some good.

Student: Sounds like you're talking about a wild animal.

Nixon: Yeah, maybe I am...

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:35 AM on May 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


End the war, close the prisons, prosecute the criminals who lied to me, and end this disgraceful chapter of American history for good.

... AND I WANT IT NOW!

Jeez, people. Get a grip already. I want these things too but acting like petulant Verucas on the internet isn't going to make any of these inherited messes disappear overnight. Perspective. Get some. It's the lack of it that's consigned you to the political fringes for decades, and I would know as I used to lurk there myself. Then again, it's far easier to just circle-hyperlink-jerk Greenwald all day.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:36 AM on May 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


Beese, again: It just seems like you and some of the other more strident critics of the administration attribute absolute sacrosanct status to every word that some anonymous source within the byzantine power structure of Washington utters, while at the same time holding every word of President Obama's actual public statements to an impossibly high critical standard.

Why is Obama the only unreliable narrator in this story from where you sit? I'm honestly

curious how you feel so confident you understand the moral qualities and convictions he brings to his role as leader so well less than a year into his first term.

This speech confirms the worst, that nothing will be done, but empty words: He's passed the buck on to Congress.

That's bullshit. His speech says the closure is going ahead. Full stop. And you honestly feel you're in a better position to comment on the matter of possible DOJ proecutions and President Obama's intentions than a justice department attorney?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:39 AM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: "Plus, "preventative detention?" Those words were not used by Obama."

The rubes can't be trusted with such things.

Obama Is Said to Consider Preventive Detention Plan


Your sad name-calling and failure to address my arguments aside, the fact that the NYT and Glenn Greenwald used a term doesn't mean that the President did.

Let's look at the speech as prepared.

Finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.

I want to be honest: this is the toughest issue we will face. We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who have received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, commanded Taliban troops in battle, expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

As I said, I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda 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. However, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. That is why my Administration has begun to reshape these standards to ensure they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible and lawful standards for those who fall in 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.

I know that creating such a system poses unique challenges. Other countries have grappled with this question, and so must we. But I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for Guantanamo detainees - not to avoid one. In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine that the 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 so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.


Nowhere are the words "preventative detention" used. Instead, he discusses persons who would violate the "laws of war." He's aiming to categorize these persons as POW's.

More importantly, what is your plan, Mr. Beese? How would you address the problem. Because if you cannot come up with a solution, you cannot add much more than complaints to the problem. The difference between yourself and the President is that he has the responsibility for cleaning up a mess he did not create. He doesn't just get to skate by via complaints and whining. He has to come up with a plan. Bush's crimes left him very few options, none of them good. If you could provide us with a way to figure this situation out, I'd really like to hear it.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:41 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's follow their simple-minded spin to its natural conclusion: Republicans are cowards. They are afraid of people we have in chains. They don't trust the ability of our military police to keep terrorists from breaking out and enacting movie plots. At a fundamental level, they don't trust our men and women in uniform to do their jobs.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 10:42 AM on May 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


His speech says the closure is going ahead. Full stop.

I'm not talking about closing Gitmo. I'm talking about the part of his speech where he lets war criminals off the hook by saying Congress should deal with it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 AM on May 21, 2009


I still believe in Obama. That said, his inclination to walk the tightrope between left and right leaves me a little cold. Pick a side and let the chips fall; even Cheney proudly took his five deferments while still professing that violence is the answer.

As to Cheney's response to all this: I wouldn't take the advice of a five-time-deferment-taker on how to run a mall security department.

What good advice could Cheney offer? How to hide under a sheet? Probably (in more ways than one.) How to scream that the sky is falling and liberals have no clue? Definitely. How to sneer and squawk like The Penguin? Absolutely.


Cheney. What a Dick.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2009


If you could provide us with a way to figure this situation out, I'd really like to hear it.

Ooh, ooh! I know this one: Suspend the Constitutional separation of powers and use your enhanced Executive authority to politicize the Department of Justice so that those bastards who suspended the Constitutional separation of powers and used their enhanced Executive authority to politicize the Department of Justice will, er ... uh, what?
posted by joe lisboa at 10:46 AM on May 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Here's another thing that annoys me: The attacks on Nancy Pelosi by those who oppose torture--those who think she needs to be crushed are relying on the CIA and the Republican party for their evidence against her.

Those people are liars. Why are you listening to them?

Not to mention the fact that she never ordered those techniques. Ever. It would be the height of irony if the only person to suffer real fallout from this would be a person who didn't order the torture.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:47 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


"The speech was for the rubes and the sycophants in the press. In private, the truth comes out: Obama will not permit Holder to mount even one prosecution."

I think there could be a case where these are considered ordinary POWs, which don't require ordinary criminal trials, per se. Well, I think it would be better, because it reaffirms our role as well as the prisoners, without getting into wishy-washy "illegal combatants" language, which is not really recognized in a legal sense. In any event, the Geneva Conventions consider them POWs no matter what we call them. Further than that, I am not sure how the situation on the ground is at the moment, but obviously we need to stop the indiscriminate sweeps of civilians and detentions based on poor quality and unverified tips, and we need to release those who should never have been picked up.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:53 AM on May 21, 2009


The Dems refused to vote (give) money to close the base for the simple reason: close the bas and then we will sometime figure out what to do with the prisoners. I wouldn't give money unless I had been given a complete program to vote upon. And then the NY Times comes out with a report that 1 out of every 7 jihadists released returns to jihad. Not likely to reassure Americans that the Dems on the right path.
posted by Postroad at 10:56 AM on May 21, 2009


Read the comments from the DOJ attorney on that point, Blazecock.

The president, you know, has no power whatsoever to prosecute anybody for anything, nor does he have the authority to force congress or the DOJ to prosecute anyone for anything.

Legally, it has to be congress or the DOJ. Obama has made it clear he thinks a truth commission would be an ineffective, politically divisive and likely inconclusive morass (which is hard to doubt considering congress' recent performance on the funding to close GITMO and the rest of its track record). But note, he's still stopped short of insisting that congress kill the idea, because he legitimately believes its a separation of powers matter.

He's also made it clear that under his administration, the DOJ is supposed to be restored to its former status as an independent, non-partisan law enforcement body. And at least some in the DOJ (like the commenter I linked) still view prosecutions as a very real possibility. But that absolutely can't happen if there's a perception that the DOJ is still, as it was under Bush, acting essentially as Obama's "personal law firm" because then the specter of partisan politicization would hang over the proceedings and any eventual convictions would be cast into doubt and likely discredited.

This situation is not simple, legally or politically. If we really want to clean the mess up, we've got to be cunning and precise in our approach to these issues, and yes, we've also got to exercise some restraint and patience.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


His speech says the closure is going ahead. Full stop.

I'm not talking about closing Gitmo. I'm talking about the part of his speech where he lets war criminals off the hook by saying Congress should deal with it.


Let's look at the facts, shall we?

When it comes to the actions of the last eight years, some Americans are angry; others want to re-fight debates that have been settled, most clearly at the ballot box in November. And I know that these debates lead directly to a call for a fuller accounting, perhaps through an Independent Commission.

I have opposed the creation of such a Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.


So, where, in that passage, are war criminals going to be let off the hook?

Nowhere.

Furthermore, a "Truth Commission" by its very nature, will lack the ability to prosecute anyone. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Executive has the sole authority to bring prosecutions. That would be done through the Justice Department.

In front of a "Truth Commission," no one who might be prosecuted will testify. They can be called, but they will plead the Fifth. Indeed, look at the history of such commissions. They are based on South Africa's Truth and Reconcilation Commsssions.

The law creating the commission made it clear that prosecutions were not its mandate:

To provide for the investigation and the establishment of as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights committed during the period from 1 March 1960 to the cut-off date contemplated in the Constitution, within or outside the Republic, emanating from the conflicts of the past, and the fate or whereabouts of the victims of such violations; the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to acts associated with a political objective committed in the course of the conflicts of the past during the said period; affording victims an opportunity to relate the violations they suffered; the taking of measures aimed at the granting of reparation to, and the rehabilitation and the restoration of the human and civil dignity of, victims of violations of human rights; reporting to the Nation about such violations and victims; the making of recommendations aimed at the prevention of the commission of gross violations of human rights; and for the said purposes to provide for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a Committee on Human Rights Violations, a Committee on Amnesty and a Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation; and to confer certain powers on, assign certain functions to and impose certain duties upon that Commission and those Committees; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

Those who came forward and testified fully and truthfully were given full amnesty. That's right, they walked.

The idea that we could create such a Commission with the power to prosecute is ridiculous.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Obama's] inclination to walk the tightrope between left and right leaves me a little cold. Pick a side...

His entire message, upon which most here voted for him, was unity. It's not about walking a tightrope between two sides; it's about recognizing that people can have vehement disagreements inside the room, then leave together at 5 pm and share a drink and talk about baseball, because both sides are sincerely trying to make America better and it is made better for their trying.

Granted, this isn't a phenomenon you see much on the Internet.
posted by cribcage at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2009 [12 favorites]


I don't understand who the republican argument is for. The people making it can't possibly believe that Obama is going to take the gitmo prisoners to various suburbs in the U.S. and just release them and as low as my opinion can sometimes be of republican voters, I can't imagine them believing that, either.

It's called throwing a monkeywrench into the works. That's the GOP's only strategy now. To do everything they can to derail or corrupt anything the Dems and Obama try to do. They don't necessarily have to totally block things to be successful. All they really need is to lead the Obama and Congress around by the nose enough to make them (Dems) look utterly incompetent.

And, yes, the general American public really ARE that stupid.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:09 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't Congress have to actually declare war before there can be 'prisoners of war'? So far as I know, Congress has not declared war, so these are not prisoners of war. They are merely criminals, and I'm not sure why they should be treated as anything other than that. If that means releasing those for which we can't get a guilty conviction, well, that's how justice works, right? I mean, let's say you commit some crime, then the prosecutors can't make a case against you -- should you be held forever even so? Then what's the point of ever even having trials, if we punish the people regardless of whether they're found guilty or non guilty?

Do we want to be a country where we just throw people in prison forever, without affording them any chance to defend themselves? I hope that is not the country we have become. That's certainly not the country that I risked my life defending in the military. There needs to be fair trials. If we can come up with evidence and get convictions, that's great. And if we can't successfully prosecute some of them, then they should be released. Not in our country, but in their own. If that means we end up having to fight them again, well, nobody said human rights and justice would always be easy.
posted by jamstigator at 11:10 AM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Furthermore, a "Truth Commission" by its very nature, will lack the ability to prosecute anyone. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Executive has the sole authority to bring prosecutions. That would be done through the Justice Department.

Ironmouth: Since you're an attorney, maybe you can answer this. Prior to the Bush administration, how independent has the authority of the DOJ been? My understanding has always been that, although it's organizationally a part of the executive branch, the DOJ , is supposed to be a politically independent law enforcement body, not directly under the control of any other political body within the government. Is that correct?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:10 AM on May 21, 2009


And, yes, the general American public really ARE that stupid.

I think the election of Obama over fear-mongering by McCain and Palin puts the lie to that canard.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:12 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: Since you're an attorney, maybe you can answer this. Prior to the Bush administration, how independent has the authority of the DOJ been? My understanding has always been that, although it's organizationally a part of the executive branch, the DOJ , is supposed to be a politically independent law enforcement body, not directly under the control of any other political body within the government. Is that correct?

That's not really the case. The President rarely intereferes in the prosecutions by tradition, however. High-profile cases are the exception.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:14 AM on May 21, 2009


I read the speach. To me it was basically: "Yeah, America is great! But to hell with all that we're still going to detain people without trial."
posted by delmoi at 11:14 AM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Doesn't Congress have to actually declare war before there can be 'prisoners of war'?

No. The Geneva convention and the UCMJ apply regardless of what Congress does.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:15 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not just saying "he's wrong," but providing a policy alternative that would work.

Okay, here's one. Anyone we can legitimately try, convict, and imprison in the US we do so. Heck, build a brand new, terrorists-only prison surrounded by a mile of razor wire and alligator-infested swamp, whatever.

Anyone we can't try or can't convict, we let them go on a sort of high-security parole. They are restricted to a small area, each of them in a different part of the country. We monitor all of their communications and we hire new FBI agents whose sole job is to follow them everywhere. Technically, they are free: they can live their lives basically as they like, and it'd probably still be cheaper than Guantanamo.
posted by jedicus at 11:16 AM on May 21, 2009


I read the speach. To me it was basically: "Yeah, America is great! But to hell with all that we're still going to detain people without trial."

what is your solution for the people that can't be tried because Bush tortured them? What would you do with Khalid Sheik Mohammed?

More than your complaints, I'm interested in your solutions.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:16 AM on May 21, 2009


My understanding has always been that, although it's organizationally a part of the executive branch, the DOJ is supposed to be a politically independent law enforcement body, not directly under the control of any other political body within the government. Is that correct?

It's supposed to be politically independent, but that's just a convention that really got going after Nixon. JFK nominated his own brother as AG. The president can fire the AG, and Nixon actually did that. (well, he fired a prosecutor, and 'accepted the resignation of the AG and a deputy AG)
posted by delmoi at 11:18 AM on May 21, 2009


Anyone we can't try or can't convict, we let them go on a sort of high-security parole. They are restricted to a small area, each of them in a different part of the country. We monitor all of their communications and we hire new FBI agents whose sole job is to follow them everywhere. Technically, they are free: they can live their lives basically as they like, and it'd probably still be cheaper than Guantanamo.

What you are proposing is the same thing. Prohibiting freedom of movement is the same thing as imprisonment under the Constitution. It is a violation of their liberty. You are still taking away rights without trial. Plus, have a 24-7 team of FBI agents on these guys? Way, way, way, way more expensive.

Plus the American people would not stand for such a thing. Ever. Not to mention the scores of dead fools shot by the FBI while trying to kill the parolees.

Now you are starting to see the complete mess that Bush created. Hoping that Obama can create a perfect solution to this mess is just a pipe dream.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:20 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've given a lot of thought to what Cheney is doing, speaking in the press and attracting attention to the torture issue, especially after that epic thread about torture we had a week or so ago.

More and more it is becoming clear that Obama was swept into office in part by a group of people who want the country to embrace a completely unrealistic and historically unprecedented moralistic ideology. Good luck with that.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, founded a University, wrote state constitutions, and kept slaves and had adulterous affairs with them and disowned his children by them. Jefferson is universally, and globally, acknowledged to be one of our best presidents.

In fact, what people really want is not to know. I think this is what Cheney understands. This is why he is coming out and talking. These people who want this simply want to hear the right magic words, not see anything contrary in the news, and never have to think about it long and hard enough to arrive at the conclusion that of course the United States is up to all kinds of horrific things, because so much of its future depends on the rest of the worlds. What is upsetting to so many of these people about Obama is that he isn't whitewashing the history.

Obama's problem is that he can't, because Cheney won't shut up long enough for his whitewash to work. His mere presence in the news is enough to bring the whitewash to the fore because he draws attention to the camps that are still open, the torturers in the CIA who still probably work for the CIA, etc. The more we talk about the issue, the more the story starts to focus on the complexities at the same time as the issue gets blurred with other things, like the stories of rapes at Abu Ghraib. Where do the people go after closing Gitmo? What about the guys who you think are really dangerous but don't have enough evidence? What about them? Oh they go to another secret camp? So closing Gitmo is just a publicity stunt? Etc. It's a mess.

Cheney knows it's a mess, because he created it but he also knows from experience how the narrative can run out of your control. Cheney is the wing of the Republican party that is playing the long game, unlike the Steeles and Limbaughs who focus on the short term zingers. Cheney is working to erode Obama's image as a transformative figure, so that over time people come to see him as merely a technocratic party-line democrat. Good for things like changing fuel economy standards, infrastructure reinvestment, etc. but bad for realigning global macro interests in favor of the US. Frankly, all the focus on the religious right and dopes like Limbaugh and Glenn Beck is good for Cheney, because while he certainly can use them, he doesn't need them, and more importantly the other interest that Cheney represents don't want those guys given them any attention. These are the people in the republican party who are not members of the religious right and never were comfortable with the power that that element had.

The motive behind this long game is the idea being played out mostly in the financial press about the end of the "Anglo-Saxon model" and the rise of the French or European model. The perspective on the right is that Obama represents the establishment of the European model in America (I think the jury is still out). If it takes two terms to grind him down from transformative to merely an incremental or interim figure, that's not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things.

So as long as Cheney keeps talking about torture, the more Obama has to talk about it, and the more the press learns that Obama isn't really doing much beyond addressing marginal cases and hiding the rest behind rhetoric.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


what is your solution for the people that can't be tried because Bush tortured them? What would you do with Khalid Sheik Mohammed?

More than your complaints, I'm interested in your solutions.
Why couldn't you prosecute KSM? Supposedly Abu Zubaida fingered him before he was ever tortured, in fact, that was how we even found out who he was. It wasn't untill Cheney wanted evidence linking Al Quaeda to Iraq that Abu Zubaida was torture.

Try to pay attention to what's actually going on.
posted by delmoi at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2009


(er, that Abu Zubaida was turtured)
posted by delmoi at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2009


... there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who have received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, commanded Taliban troops in battle, expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

How is this confusing? There are people who can't be prosecuted because there is no legitimate evidence against them. However, they must be detained because of what they might do in the future. Maybe "preventative detention" is some complicated legal term that refers to something really specific, but in terms of plain English, it seems to fit well here.

All the subsequent talk about creating a legal framework is bullshit. A legal framework already exists. It says you have to give people a timely trial, and release them if there's no evidence. The law as is is deemed unacceptable, so it will be changed to allow the prisoners to remain imprisoned. They will furthermore wait in prison while the law and/or their status is changed to make imprisoning them legal.

A lot of people seem to applaud this mentality, and I understand why some people would find it appealing (I don't) but it is what it is. Obama has two basic options. He can a) order a review of the prisoners' files and try those with actual evidence against them and release the rest, or b) continue to claim that torture-elicited confessions constitute evidence that is somehow unfair by goody-two-shoes courts, and change the rules to allow it to count in a special process (except he claims that he won't do that!). I'm a big fan of option a. There are too many people who've come out of Guantanamo who've been shown to be innocent, so I'd like to see anyone who is held get an actual trial. "Trust me" doesn't cut it anymore, not from Obama, not from anyone. If a few terrorists are released back to their home countries, big fucking deal. Don't let them back into the U.S., and I don't see how they could possibly be dramatically more dangerous than any of the millions of people who've had family and friends imprisoned, tortured, or killed by the U.S. At least we'll know who they are.

On preview, I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that torture doesn't mean we can't try people. We just can't use evidence obtained through torture. So if we actually have evidence that KSM was a terrorist, we can and should use it to try him.

Bagram: Sometimes people speak too simply about this. There was never (to my knowledge) any attempt to transfer people from Guantanamo to Bagram. Rather, the Obama administration tried to argue that the prisoners held at Bagram had essentially no constitutional rights (Habeus Corpus, etc). Thus Bagram would become the new Guantanamo, the place where the U.S. could store people it wanted without trials or evidence.
posted by Humanzee at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Supposedly Abu Zubaida fingered him before he was ever tortured, in fact, that was how we even found out who he was. It wasn't untill Cheney wanted evidence linking Al Quaeda to Iraq that Abu Zubaida was torture.

Supposedly won't cut it here. Facts please.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:25 AM on May 21, 2009


Prohibiting freedom of movement is the same thing as imprisonment under the Constitution. It is a violation of their liberty.

Parolees have restrictions placed on their movement all the time.

Plus, have a 24-7 team of FBI agents on these guys? Way, way, way, way more expensive.

Nonsense. FBI agents start at ~48k, call it 60 with benefits. Running Guantanamo costs $120 million. There are 245 remaining inmates, about 100 of which are considered fit for a trial. The pro rata share of the remainder is $71 million. That's enough to hire about 1,200 FBI agents, or 8 per parolee -- more than enough for round-the-clock coverage.
posted by jedicus at 11:27 AM on May 21, 2009


The problem is that there is a doctrine known as the "fruit of the poisonous tree." It is designed to prevent the government from using illegally obtained evidence in an indirect matter. It could be ruled that evidence obtained through torture of one person could not be used against another. That is a huge part of the problem.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:29 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


These people who want this simply want to hear the right magic words, not see anything contrary in the news, and never have to think about it long and hard enough to arrive at the conclusion that of course the United States is up to all kinds of horrific things, because so much of its future depends on the rest of the worlds.

"You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

"We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:32 AM on May 21, 2009


Nonsense. FBI agents start at ~48k, call it 60 with benefits. Running Guantanamo costs $120 million. There are 245 remaining inmates, about 100 of which are considered fit for a trial. The pro rata share of the remainder is $71 million. That's enough to hire about 1,200 FBI agents, or 8 per parolee -- more than enough for round-the-clock coverage

Most of the people who work in the FBI building are staff, not agents. You'd need 4 staff per agent. That's how the Bureau works. Having worked against FBI Internal affairs, I can tell you that organization is really top-heavy.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:32 AM on May 21, 2009


You'd need 4 staff per agent.

Okay, fine. Hire 4 staff per agent, then. It's still just a couple hundred million per year. To my mind, that is chump change weighed against the value of restoring America's image and the rule of law.
posted by jedicus at 11:34 AM on May 21, 2009


I have to agree with Ironmouth. He has remained consistent.
And we know what consistency is the hobgoblin of.

The only real flaw I've ever seen in him is a matter of, for lack of a better word, soul. Taking my heart out of the equation, I have to agree with him. There are people who are threats to the security of the United States. Some of those people cannot be prosecuted for a number of reasons and -some- of them are valid.
Practically, those people, and again, some, are generally killed in the field.
Understand I mean exactly what I'm saying here. You hunt such people down and kill them by whatever means possible. They are that immediately dangerous. For a number of reasons - contacts, means, etc. etc. There are no supervillians, but suffice it to say such people exist. One can grant that they may not be solely physically dangerous, but politically as well (old moral "kill hitler" conundrum - kill one guy to save many and prevent a possible war, etc.)
Those details aside, what Bushco did - and completely ignoring the fact that many of these guys were just poor schlubs caught in the net, I'm talking about the actual terrorists - was like a kid bringing a dangerous wild animal into the house.
"Hey look daddy! A wolverine!"
Well, ok, now you have to kill it because it's in your house and knows there's food there, and it's a dangerous animal. Except you can't because your kid is right there and its in the house now and shooting it (with a freakin' 12-gauge, what do you think?) is a bad idea because you'll get blood and guts all over your floors, couch, etc. - so practically speaking, it's pretty much all fubar.
Now, if you do get it in a cage - it's no longer an immediate threat, is it? So again - just killing it would be pretty damned heartless.
Same deal here. Hell, I would have pulled the trigger myself in some cases, but there's no way I'm going to just summarily execute someone in custody who's no longer a threat.
And what are you going to do, convict someone of being a wolverine? Just because someone is dangerous, does not mean legally you can put them in prison if they haven't done something under your laws.
And I think that's part of the problem here too - some folks keep arguing that torture is in a legal eigenstate because it's not defined or we don't know what war powers cover or jurisdiction or blah de blah.
In this case I think we're caught by not having a proper legal tool, but I'd argue that this is a function of policy in that we're not really cooperating with supraregional or international prosecution and so forth.
In fact, as recently as January, Pranab Mukherjee the Indian external minister was asking for this kind of global partnership, and we're still playing grab ass with the UN Security Council - probably inertia from the go-it-alone hyperpower b.s. we started with Iraq.
So - all that - with my head, yeah, it's complex. Yeah, Obama is doing a pretty good job navigating the situation and dealing with the delicate nature of -some- of these cases.

But I'd dump that all off the table because I know in my heart there is no fucking way you can indefinitely imprison someone without showing cause for it and maintain legitimate authority. There's no government on the earth that can or should be allowed to get away with that kind of authoritarian b.s. You kill someone, hell, even targeted assassination - ok, maybe it was necessary, but you still show cause. We fired cruise missiles at bin Laden but we knew he hit U.S. embassies in Africa in '98.
So explain to me how we go from the CIA clipping everyone and his brother in the 70's to Iran-Contra in the 80s to the kinder gentler CIA under Clinton that worried over legal pronouncements from the white house about covert ops against a very well known terrorist to the Bush debacle and now to this?
Policy.
You play Monopoly, you have the dice the pieces, the little houses - you have to play by those rules. Are those rules not working? Ok, change the game.
I see no reason why, once someone attacks an embassy and kills our people, lawyers and other officials have to legally parse what kind of operations we can carry out. Other than as a matter of jurisdiction. The guy had already declared war.
But the flip side of that is - once he's in your power - you had better damn well have evidence for going after him in the first place, otherwise, yes, you have to - literally - let him go. (And there are some operational, if not political, advantages to that)
I'm not saying it's better to kill someone. I'm saying it's usually easier to know when.
If you stop something before it happens - that's a harder situation.
The problem is: we can't let them go, but we can't prosecute them. Well, that stems from policy. Politics. Not from a practical position. So change the policy. Take the hit.
And politically - maybe he can't. Or can't afford to. Hell, his own party is shafting him on this.
Only flaw I can see though. His brains getting in the way of his balls. Not enough soul to know where to say "No, THIS is what's right." Whether he can pull it off or not.
Sort of the King Arthur problem really. Tough to be king and a husband at the same time.

(Tangent - I remember watching an episode of Star Trek DSN. Worf goes on a mission with his wife (yeah big mistake from the outset - but once the die had been cast....) and winds up quitting the mission and potentially letting millions die. Back in the day I would have said "the mission is everything" and let anyone die or cut out my own heart in order to complete it. Now, I've been through more changes. I don't know if I'm smarter, but I am wiser about a few things. And I know my resolve. And I look at the Samurai ethos - 'matters of small concern should be treated seriously - matters of great concern should be treated lightly' - in a new light. Grave matters must be deliberated upon in times of quiet. Foundational principles have been laid for dealing with these kinds of situations - that no one should be held without trial, without showing cause. Trying to fix or solve these things in situ, treating each as a unique situation (and they are most assuredly not), you lack the stability and resolve in execution. Obama is far more intelligent a man than I. But I don't see his resolve.)
(also my apologies for the lack of brevity)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:36 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: I'm not a politician and politically, this would be pretty difficult, but look. How many terrorists do you think there are in the Swat Valley right now? In Afghanistan? How much worse would it actually be if there were 20 more? These terrorists might be dangerous if they were somehow released with completely new identities and no monitoring to do whatever they wanted in a free society, but really, the idea that these guys, once released would truly pose an immense additional risk is absurd. There would be no way they could effectively organize secret terror cells in the west and if they were leased in actual terror hotspots they would just be one more among many. Hell the other terrorists would probably avoid them thinking they were spies or had microchips embedded in them like a Judas Goat. And even if they didn't. So what? Maybe these guys are great at organizing or whatever, but ultimately they are just people. They can't do anything that other people in the Taliban controlled areas can't already do. Having just one more fighter or organizer won't change anything.

And not only that, releasing them 'into the wild' would, in fact, give us the opportunity to try to kill them in the field of battle -- not that I would advocate that unless they were actually shooting at us (i.e. we can't just let them go, then bomb their house without solid evidence that they were actually up to something)
In fact, what people really want is not to know. I think this is what Cheney understands. This is why he is coming out and talking. These people who want this simply want to hear the right magic words, not see anything contrary in the news, and never have to think about it long and hard enough to arrive at the conclusion that of course the United States is up to all kinds of horrific things, because so much of its future depends on the rest of the worlds. What is upsetting to so many of these people about Obama is that he isn't whitewashing the history.

Obama's problem is that he can't, because Cheney won't shut up long enough for his whitewash to work. His mere presence in the news is enough to bring the whitewash to the fore because he draws attention to the camps that are still open, the torturers in the CIA who still probably work for the CIA, etc. The more we talk about the issue, the more the story starts to focus on the complexities at the same time as the issue gets blurred with other things, like the stories of rapes at Abu Ghraib. Where do the people go after closing Gitmo? What about the guys who you think are really dangerous but don't have enough evidence? What about them? Oh they go to another secret camp? So closing Gitmo is just a publicity stunt? Etc. It's a mess.
I'm not sure exactly what Cheney is thinking, but I think you're right that Obama wishes this would just 'go away'. But frankly I'm glad Cheney is out there pushing this issue from "the other side". Cheney wants to be vindicated but whatever. He obviously doesn't want to "look forward" here.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on May 21, 2009


Parolees have restrictions placed on their movement all the time.

That's while they're on parole. They're still being punished.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:37 AM on May 21, 2009


The "fruit of the poisonous tree" is pretty much all they have on many people we hold. Many of these "terrorists" are "known" to have done things because another "terrorist" was tortured into confessing. I consider that "knowledge" to be complete bullshit. Certainly information of that manner existed for many of the men who have been already released. If we have no solid evidence that someone is a terrorist, then we have to let him go. Given that many people have been held for several years and badly mistreated, I think reparations are in order. Of course that will never happen. But releasing them is possible. In some cases, it's already been done.
posted by Humanzee at 11:38 AM on May 21, 2009


I've given a lot of thought to what Cheney is doing, speaking in the press and attracting attention to the torture issue ...

On this aspect of the topic, I think Cheney is actually playing for bigger stakes than most people realize.

Cheney has a lot of people telling him that he can be president in eight years. Seriously. He'll be 75 in 2016, only three years older than McCain was in 2008. If he's not president, he'll get to be the king-maker. Again.

There will be another wide-scale terrorist attack or attempted attack on U.S. soil. Nobody knows when. But it'll happen, just by dint of the math. And when it happens, Cheney thinks he'll be the guy that gets to say: "I told you so. Back in 2009. Now, you know me. You know what I'll do. And only I can keep us safe. So, gimme the car keys."

And that will suck, like few things have sucked before.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:40 AM on May 21, 2009


I'm not sure exactly what Cheney is thinking, but I think you're right that Obama wishes this would just 'go away'.

He seems to be doing that a lot these days.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:41 AM on May 21, 2009


Preventative detention is just another way of saying prior restraint.

To quote my favorite legal scholar, "For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint."
posted by mullingitover at 11:43 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Supposedly won't cut it here. Facts please.

You know you could actually learn something or do some research instead of nitpicking word choice. By 'supposedly' I mean't A documented fact according to an FBI Agent who interrogated Zubaida before he was ever tortured, and personally found out who KSM actually was:
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

Just because you don't know the facts are is no excuse for spouting nonsense.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2009


Man I don't know what is wrong with my typing today. By "mean't" I meant "meant"
posted by delmoi at 11:49 AM on May 21, 2009


That's while they're on parole. They're still being punished.

And holding these people indefinitely without trial isn't a punishment? How can it be that indefinite detention without trial is constitutional, legal, or moral but letting them live a basically free life is not? Who among us would prefer a maximum security prison and probably solitary confinement to living in the outside world under the watchful eye of FBI agents?

We have rules. Those rules were broken. It will not do to compound those errors with more constitutional violations. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of the Constitution. If we do not admit our mistakes, apologize to those wronged, and let them go (perhaps with some conditions attached), then we might as well toss the constitution out the window.

prior restraint

Prior restraint is a First Amendment doctrine. It doesn't really pertain to these issues.
posted by jedicus at 11:49 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with Ironmouth. He has remained consistent.
And we know what consistency is the hobgoblin of.

The only real flaw I've ever seen in him is a matter of, for lack of a better word, soul. Taking my heart out of the equation, I have to agree with him. There are people who are threats to the security of the United States. Some of those people cannot be prosecuted for a number of reasons and -some- of them are valid.
Practically, those people, and again, some, are generally killed in the field.


As usual, it is name calling and not answering the arguments I'm making.


As fo the consistency, I'm a lawyer. Much of my consistency isn't from what I wish would happen, which is that George W. Bush, Cheney and the like would be prosecuted, it is from what I know is legally possible, which is far different. This is a huge problem. Not to mention the polticial possiblities which are even more limiting. Obama cannot release these guys. It would mean the end of his entire agenda and his Presidency. For the sake of three terrorists.

The question then is, half a loaf or none at all? I vote for half a loaf. Because much of what is still legally possible is poltically suicidal. And I don't want Sarah Palin being the President of the United States. This is one area where wrong moves will cost the good guys a ton.

Perhaps you want those fuckers back in charge. Perhaps you think it is worth it. But looking at the international body count, I'd say it isn't. Because if those assholes get back in, they are going to kill more and more and more. Can you tell the mothers of the killed that it was worth it because three people who suffered from waterboarding were released?

Delmoi,

An interrogator is not a prosecutor. While I respect Mr. Soufan deeply, the problem is much more complex than "Terrorist A told us what happened before he was tortured." Because that would mean that Terrorist A would have to testify in open court against KSM. So do you think, Terrorist A is just going to do what we said? We tortured him. If I was a defense attorney, I'd move to strike any potential testimony Terrorist A would give because he was under threat of torture if he did not say what the government wanted. I'd likely win that motion. Things are a lot more complex in bringing a prosecution. Especially around the area of intent, they may not have enough to convict based on the information given.

We have to work with the possible here--which is politically punishing the GOP for the sins of Bush and Cheney. That way no president will ever order torture again, because they will lose votes, which politicians fear far more than facing prosecution.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


f we do not admit our mistakes, apologize to those wronged, and let them go (perhaps with some conditions attached),

How could you attach conditions without conviction? It would still represent the throwing out of the Constitution as you say. There's no due process to those "conditions." Parole requires conviction.

POW status works much better.

But the American people would never stand for release. Ever. It would be the permanent return of the GOP.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:06 PM on May 21, 2009


But the American people would never stand for release. Ever. It would be the permanent return of the GOP.
I'll quote you and say, "facts please". Many have already been released. Does that mean that the permanent return of the GOP is already locked in?
posted by Humanzee at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2009


But the American people would never stand for release. Ever. It would be the permanent return of the GOP.

Especially when the next attack happens, and the GOP gets to stand around going, "See? See what we told you would happen?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2009


We have to work with the possible here--which is politically punishing the GOP for the sins of Bush and Cheney.

That's idiotic. If they had never tortured, but had invaded Iraq, failed in responding to Katrina, done the U.S. Attorney firings, let the economy implode and all the other failings, do you really think that they wouldn't have gotten destroyed just the same? On the other hand, what if they'd tortured people, but won the war in Iraq, cleaned up Afghanistan, responded effectively to Katrina and created fantastic economic growth. What then?

There are a ton of things the bush administration did wrong, and all of those are plausible reasons why the GOP imploded. Torture is just one more. And besides, if all you worry about is politics, you absolutely leave the door open for individual politicians to torture people if they think -- correctly or no -- that it would be in their political interests to torture someone.
posted by delmoi at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2009


But the American people would never stand for release.

I would stand for release of anyone who can't be tried and convicted. That used to be the American way.
posted by RussHy at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'll quote you and say, "facts please". Many have already been released. Does that mean that the permanent return of the GOP is already locked in?

The people who have been released were small time. These are the big boys. The effect would be different.

Are you willing to take that chance? I'm not.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2009


But the American people would never stand for release. Ever. It would be the permanent return of the GOP.

Please.
In a new AP poll out tonight, President George Bush received a vote of “Biggest Villain” from 25 percent of Americans. Bush’s 25 percent topped Osama bin Laden by three times the percentage points. Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and even SATAN received FAR LESS votes than Bush.
They would only do that if they were more afraid of the terrorists then the GOP returning to power. I'm not convinced that's the case. (And yes, the poll isn't that serious. it was an open ended question and bush just got the plurality of votes. But the point is, with all the other problems caused by Bush and the republicans, a few terrorist wouldn't really be that scary)
posted by delmoi at 12:17 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


How could you attach conditions without conviction? It would still represent the throwing out of the Constitution as you say. There's no due process to those "conditions." Parole requires conviction.

The travel restriction is tricky, I'll grant, but I think it can be got around because they aren't US citizens. As foreigners they are allowed to live on our soil at our pleasure, and we can attach conditions to that if we want. Call it the 'terrorist visa.' It's my understanding that most detainees don't want to be deported for fear of being tortured or killed by their home governments, so presumably they would prefer to stay here, even given the conditions.

The rest (wiretaps, being followed by FBI agents, etc) can all either be obtained by a warrant or don't even require a warrant.

These are the big boys.

There are only 15 so-called 'high-value detainees' left at Guantanamo. Perhaps we are, as you argue, truly painted into a corner with regard to them. But the other 130 or so untriable but low-value detainees shouldn't be bundled together with them.
posted by jedicus at 12:17 PM on May 21, 2009


I'll quote you and say, "facts please". Many have already been released. Does that mean that the permanent return of the GOP is already locked in?

There will always be terrorism. Let's just give up and put Emperor Cheney in charge, right now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:20 PM on May 21, 2009


The people who have been released were small time. These are the big boys. The effect would be different.

Are you willing to take that chance? I'm not.


So what you're saying is that you're willing to keep people who can't be convicted a crime locked up indefinitely for political reasons?

And anyway, this veers into conditional political prognostication (if this happened then this! would happen) which I don't find to be a valid form of argument. I don't, ultimately, believe it's worthwhile to sit around arguing about stupid and cowardly the American people are or are not. My view is that they're not that stupid or cowardly and could deal with this in a mature way (while republicans throw hissy fits and hold their breath until they turn blue on capital hill, of course. Like they do every month.)
posted by delmoi at 12:22 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


This whole thing is bullshit.

If they have evidence to convict them, do so in a public court of law, and put them in jail. Otherwise, give them money and an apology and let them go.

Acting as if a few tortured Arabs and other non-white people could somehow destroy America if put in American jails or, God forbid, set free! After years of torture, nearly all these people are broken - I imagine it'd take months if not of rehabilitation for most of them before they could comfortably walk the streets.

Americans are cowards and bullies.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:22 PM on May 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


What do you mean they're the big boys? How do you know this? Is there evidence? If there is evidence, then try them and get the conviction. If there is no evidence, then your claim that they're the "big boys" is nothing but hot air.

Not only am I willing to "take that chance", I'm extremely nervous about living in a society where that sort of chance is not taken. When I was growing up, the Soviet Union was the big bogeyman of the day. One of the things I remember was that we were supposedly the good guys, and that one of the ways you could see this was that we had a justice system that had enshrined the principle of "innocent until proven guilty", whereas they had a state-terror system whereby inconvenient people could be jailed forever and tortured. But I guess now we're supposed to believe that the Soviets were just being practical.
posted by Humanzee at 12:24 PM on May 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


Americans are cowards and bullies.

We didn't used to be. And it wasn't my idea. And besides they started it.
posted by RussHy at 12:25 PM on May 21, 2009


I was speaking in character as Darth Cheney.
posted by RussHy at 12:26 PM on May 21, 2009


Ironmouth, do you mean big boys like Omar Khadr?

You seem to be suggesting keeping those who can’t be prosecuted as POWs is the only reasonable thing to do. Since the US has no evidence that this former child soldier actually threw the grenade that killed a US soldier, I guess you are suggesting that he should be preemptively detained until terrorism no longer exists, or he dies in prison, whichever comes first.

If I may editorialize here for a moment, that sounds completely lawless and tyrannical.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:30 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


"U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guantánamo Detainees," New York Times, June 21, 2004
...none of the detainees at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay ranked as leaders or senior operatives of Al Qaeda. [Officials] said only a relative handful -- some put the number at about a dozen, others more than two dozen -- were sworn Qaeda members or other militants able to elucidate the organization's inner workings.
Report on Guantanamo Detainees: A Profile of 517 Detainees through Analysis of Department of Defense Data, February 2006
1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
And we know what consistency is the hobgoblin of.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:31 PM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


“Could somebody give me an idea for a solution other than what Obama is proposing? Not just saying "he's wrong," but providing a policy alternative that would work.”

Put them on trial. I’m happy to see them in jail forever if there’s enough evidence to convict them. This of course would require changing the GWOT policy to a policing counterterrorism strategy. But it works for gsg9, et.al.
It's just a change in policy. That's all. Then all the mechanisms fall into line. This is a problem, sure, but - let me stress - it's an artificial problem that stems from policy and initial (wrongheaded) premises.

‘War’ on a tactic is ridiculous. Furthermore – addressing terrorists from a military standpoint legitimates, or at least reclassifies, their organizations as political rather than criminal. That right there is a form of capitulation. Politics are an active instrument of operation in terrorism cells (I get in so many damned arguments, here and elsewhere, with people who seem to think of insurgencies and COIN only in military terms - hell, down to the personal hardware - "you can't take on the whole military with a handgun. They have nukes!" etc.)
It isn't enough for the government to set political goals, to determine how much military force is applicable - the interplay between political and military actions in those operations have to be weighed with regard to political effects, and vice versa.
Prisoners of war. Terrorists f’ing WANT to be prisoners of war. They *wish* they were genuine insurgents and had real popular backing. It's what they're trying to manufacture.
WTF do people think ‘Jihad’ means? Why not just call it a ‘Crusade against Terror’ and really aggravate the shit out of people and drive them to the cause? (Oh, wait) Ahh, don’t get me started.

“What would you do with Khalid Sheik Mohammed?”
Well, we tried him. Sorta. But that’s invalid because he was tortured. Yeah, let him walk. No one held a gun to our head to torture him. They want to screw the thing up – there you go. There is no danger to life and limb that’s worse than the destruction of justice. That’s what we’re talking about protecting here. Not KSM.

One quality of a terrorist operation is to provoke overreaction and force rigidity on the part of the ruler(s) – force them to show the invalidity, ineffectiveness and/or injustice of their authority. KSM’s got sympathy because of us already - despite being a terrorist.
(plus what jedicus sed)

Thinking in the dark here if I let him go and either use a false flag to assassinate him or have him die of the measles, etc. I wouldn’t want him walking around. But that can’t be a matter of stated policy. And it’s not polite conversation. Probably other viable facets/solutions I’m not seeing. But old habits die hard.

“Can you tell the mothers of the killed that it was worth it because three people who suffered from waterboarding were released?”

Yes. Their deaths have meaning in that context. Same thing as releasing the torture photos. It might mean troops get killed, it might mean more people get up in arms and agitated.
But at the end of the day the commitment to the truth and to justice, and those who serve them, gives it meaning.
I serve(d) the country because of those ideals. Not merely because it’s where I was born. I refused to participate in (and actively worked against) the Bush administration for the same reasons.
If it’s not worth fighting and dying so people aren’t tortured, by our government, by any government, than I can’t think of a damn thing that is.
Three people aren’t enough? Ok. How many is enough? Ten? Ten thousand? Ten million? Where does the number delegitimize the practice enough?
I suspect you’re right about what’s legally possible. I know you more about it than I do. And practically speaking, perhaps it’s political suicide.
But as I’ve said for some time now – it’s not about Obama. This can be done (as most things are) from outside the political sphere, yet affecting political policy.
But that's the nice thing machiavelli was right about - people control things only because other people think they do. They stop thinking it, you stop controlling it.
Why do you think Cheney's on T.V. all the time? He's trying to convince people he's an authority. He doesn't have to be right, he just has to be speaking.

(The petulant Verucas was the name of my band in high school. Then we got into punk and became the circle-hyperlink-jerk Greenwalds.)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:34 PM on May 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


The people who have been released were small time. These are the big boys. The effect would be different.

Are you willing to take that chance? I'm not.


You're the strongest country in the world. You buy more than half the world's weapons. You've been bringing war into other countries all over the world for over a half century.

The only time anyone ever struck a blow against the United States, it was something that the evidence plainly shows could have been avoided if our "Defense" and "Security" forces had simply been doing their jobs.

If you really cared about risk, you'd be howling for the people who fucked up to lose their jobs or better, face criminal charges instead of the continued rewards they got. Even the whitewash of the 9/11 Commission clearly shows that all the information needed to stop the terrorists was in the US's hands multiple times, but turf wars, power battles, incompetent individuals, and over this all the Administration's obsession with Iraq over all else prevented any intelligent response from happening.

Similarly, SAC and NORAD failed in their mission which definitely included such a mandate to take down passenger planes that had gone astray. Similarly, airport security failed in their mission to prevent people with weapons from gaining entrance to airplanes.

No one lost their jobs. No one got fired. Nothing got fixed. Everyone got a pat on a back and a promotion.

If you really worried about the security of the US, you'd start there.

But you're scared of people who might have been a threat - before they spent years in US death camps.

And the most likely fact is that most of these people are probably guilty of nothing at all because even the most cursory examination of the few facts we have show that the US forces picked people up for the slightest of reasons including hearsay and kept them indefinitely.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:35 PM on May 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


hese are not prisoners of war. They are merely criminals, and I'm not sure why they should be treated as anything other than that.

It's worse than that.

Until and unless they're convicted of a crime, they're not even criminals.
posted by rokusan at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


But the American people would never stand for release. Ever.

I disagree. I think a narrow but solid majority would support the release of any GITMO inmates tried and exonerated--especially if more mainstream press attention were somehow given to the haphazard and capricious way in which inmates were initially rounded up and detained. That's one of the best arguments I can see for more of a truth commission process: There are so many different dimensions to the abusive and negligent policies pursued under Bush--some of the facts might result in eventual prosecutions, but other facts that wouldn't necessarily, might help bolster the case for prosecuting on the other issues by providing damning context.

For example, I suspect a thorough fact-finding would show, unequivocally, that the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 begin rounding up as many "enemy combatants" as they could on the flimsiest pretexts and hearsay evidence basically to score political points with the public, while the Pentagon's secret propaganda program was busily filling front-pages with headlines about the number of terrorists successfully apprehended so far.

At the same time, any real hardened terrorists we'd detained were no doubt happily pointing the US authorities in the direction of as many completely innocent parties as they possibly could, recognizing immediately the immeasurable propaganda value of rope-a-doping credulous military and intelligence officials into sending heavily armed troops on raids of small, unsophisticated villages only to take completely innocent civilians into indefinite custody.

If that message were drilled into the public consciousness (although that's not particularly likely given the credulous, establishment lap-dog news media we seem to be stuck with for the foreseeable future), there'd be a groundswell of support not only for fair trials and due process, but for the eventual release of exonerated detainees. It would still probably be safer for any such former detainees to be released to another country, though, because the threat of political persecution and even physical violence from extremist right-wing elements in the US would still be considerable, even if a majority of the public supported their release.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:37 PM on May 21, 2009


You seem to be suggesting keeping those who can’t be prosecuted as POWs is the only reasonable thing to do. Since the US has no evidence that this former child soldier actually threw the grenade that killed a US soldier, I guess you are suggesting that he should be preemptively detained until terrorism no longer exists, or he dies in prison, whichever comes first.
No no no. read what he said:
I'll quote you and say, "facts please". Many have already been released. Does that mean that the permanent return of the GOP is already locked in?
The people who have been released were small time. These are the big boys. The effect would be different.

Are you willing to take that chance? I'm not.
We only have to keep them in jail until the risk of republicans returning to power is passed.
posted by delmoi at 12:43 PM on May 21, 2009


And the most likely fact is that most of these people are probably guilty of nothing at all because even the most cursory examination of the few facts we have show that the US forces picked people up for the slightest of reasons including hearsay and kept them indefinitely.

Just attending a terrorist training camp is a federal crime. Obama spoke of the types of charges that would keep people in this POW status. It included attending such camps. Just letting them go would put republicans in the white house. That is the risk I'm talking about, not the risk of getting attacked again.

If you really cared about risk, you'd be howling for the people who fucked up to lose their jobs or better, face criminal charges instead of the continued rewards they got.

Don't tell me what I really care or don't care about. You don't know. You'll do much better if you restrict your statments to arguments against my positions.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:45 PM on May 21, 2009


In his latest national security speech, President Obama unequivocally reaffirms his commitment to closing GITMO.

If he was really committed, it would have been closed on January 3rd and it would stand today as an empty shell, and a warning and a reminder to all Americans.

"Oh sure, I'll pay ya back that $20 bucks I owe you. I'm COMMITTED to it! See, I talked about it, that must mean I'm going to do it!"
posted by blue_beetle at 12:54 PM on May 21, 2009


"And then the NY Times comes out with a report that 1 out of every 7 jihadists released returns to jihad. Not likely to reassure Americans that the Dems on the right path."

What does that have to do with closing Guantanamo? The prisoners aren't being released.

More to your point, if we pick up innocent civilians in Iraq and torture them, doesn't that also have a high likelihood of creating a terrorist out of an innocent person as well as help recruit people to their cause? What happens if we hold an innocent person who is not fighting against us in prison indefinitely?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:55 PM on May 21, 2009


(The petulant Verucas was the name of my band in high school. Then we got into punk and became the circle-hyperlink-jerk Greenwalds.)

I know. I'm still waiting for the royalty checks.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2009


"Just attending a terrorist training camp is a federal crime. Obama spoke of the types of charges that would keep people in this POW status. It included attending such camps. Just letting them go would put republicans in the white house. That is the risk I'm talking about, not the risk of getting attacked again. "

There were sweeps of actual civilians in their homes who had no prior involvement whatsoever based on bad tips and other faulty intelligence. A lot of people ended up being imprisoned and tortured who have no relation to terrorism.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't tell me what I really care or don't care about. You don't know.
That's rich coming from someone who's predicting the result of future elections. Seems like you're telling what 300 million people care about.

If attending a terrorist training camp is a crime, and there is evidence that someone attended a terrorist training camp, then that person should be charged with that crime, and prosecuted. If on the other hand there is no good evidence that they attended a terrorist training camp, then they should be let go. You're a lawyer, right?
posted by Humanzee at 1:01 PM on May 21, 2009


That list of people returning to jihad is insane.
posted by Humanzee at 1:02 PM on May 21, 2009



If they have evidence to convict them, do so in a public court of law, and put them in jail. Otherwise, give them money and an apology and let them go.


There is a yawning, gaping chasm between evidence and admissible evidence. Was the accused read his rights or offered access to a lawyer before the FBI interrogated him? Is what he said hearsay? Did he make those statements in English or through a translator? Who is the translator, is he certified to translate?

Was physical evidence attained with a warrant? Is there a chain of custody?

Recall how long it took to indict Mafia bosses that everyone knew were bosses. The had to indict John Gotti four times before winning a conviction, and then only after they disqualified his attorney. Recall that OJ walked.

Securing a conviction is never easy, even when everyone knows the guy it.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:04 PM on May 21, 2009


That's interesting about the federal law regarding training camps. Does that mean that anyone in the world is guilty of a federal crime in the US if they attend a terrorist training camp anywhere in the world? Does federal jurisdiction extend to citizens of other countries who are not in US occupied territories?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:06 PM on May 21, 2009


That list of people returning to jihad is insane.

Yeah--didn't they even include Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) on the list, on the grounds that he resumed his singing career to spread pro-Islamic propaganda?

/not really
posted by saulgoodman at 1:07 PM on May 21, 2009


Jeez, people. Get a grip already. I want these things too but acting like petulant Verucas on the internet isn't going to make any of these inherited messes disappear overnight. Perspective. Get some. It's the lack of it that's consigned you to the political fringes for decades, and I would know as I used to lurk there myself. Then again, it's far easier to just circle-hyperlink-jerk Greenwald all day.

I'll admit my post sounded whinier than it should have. But protesting, writing to my Congresspeople, and throwing rocks at the White House won't either.

But frankly, it shouldn't take that long to draw up a framework, get it voted on, and get Gitmo shut down. It gets bogged down because people in the power structure let it.

I'm NOT someone on the political fringe, at all. I don't even read Greenwald. I just think I have a realistic understanding of decision to implementation timetables. It's 280 fucking people, who you could fit on a 747, easy. Put 'em in the docket somewhere, and let the courts have it out. We have prisons, laws, all kinds of fun stuff, that we don't really need to redo. We're having a "war" on badly rendered hyperbole, so they're, I hate to say it...extrajudicial arrest victims charged with being enemies of the state who should almost all get off on that technicality, but who I also imagine have governments who would just love to charge most of them with some actual crimes. We also have refugee courts and military engagement/combat laws and all kinds of places we could, and should, have routed them through, and these institutions have established judicial standards that should ensure fair trials.

I'd really, honestly like to know what reasons Obama has up his sleeve to create "new legal frameworks" for these people, other than that Congress is having fun playing Ay-rab Political Dodgeball and don't want to stop yet.
posted by saysthis at 1:08 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just attending a terrorist training camp is a federal crime. Obama spoke of the types of charges that would keep people in this POW status. It included attending such camps. Just letting them go would put republicans in the white house. That is the risk I'm talking about, not the risk of getting attacked again.

Thanks for stating it so clearly: You want to put people in jail with no charges for political reasons.
posted by delmoi at 1:08 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Securing a conviction is never easy, even when everyone knows the guy it."

So, Nuremberg was a farce? Or maybe there's a way to do it right?

You're really bringing up OJ as an example of what we're in for? What, is the LAPD involved now in a high profile celebrity murder trial? Or are military tribunals nothing like that and you're just making wild, uneducated guesses based on right wing talking points?

Anyway, you don't win a war like this by locking everyone up who's suspected of any ties to terrorism. The cause for radical Islam is not a country. Locking one person up or a million doesn't actually solve the problem, as its roots are much deeper than any one person or group and much more complicated.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:11 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for stating it so clearly: You want to put people in jail with no charges for political reasons.

You're reading it weird. I think what he was "stating so clearly" was he wants to put people in jail for committing federal crimes and pointed out that not doing so also creates a significant risk of creating a political environment even less hospitable to justice and reform.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:13 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Securing a conviction is never easy, even when everyone knows the guy it.

Yeah, let's get rid of that gosh darned due process. It's in the way of running Americuh.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, Nuremberg was a farce? Or maybe there's a way to do it right?

Unfortunately, not nearly as many people think this is as open-and-shut a case of war crime as prosecuted in the Nuremberg trials. The ranks of those who make up the legal system isn't without its share of skeptics either, so successful prosecutions aren't nearly as likely.

Besides, in Nuremberg we prosecuted the leaders of another nation that we had recently defeated in a war--a nation that had been engaged in efforts to systematically exterminate an entire ethnic group.

If you can't see how that makes for a case that's much easier to prosecute than a case against virtually the entire administration (if the more idealized scenarios some like to throw around were to play out) of a previous, two-term sitting President of the United States, then you're not seeing reality very clearly, IMO.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:20 PM on May 21, 2009


I think krinklyfig's Nuremberg comment was addressing the idea that it's too difficult to try foreigners without reading them their miranda rights and immediately providing them with a lawyer.
posted by Humanzee at 1:24 PM on May 21, 2009


Ah--I was taking it to be a response to the quoted comment.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:26 PM on May 21, 2009


Meanwhile, Cheney said, "everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it." Later in the same paragraph: "We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source."

Dude is 0-2 at preventing domestic terrorist attacks. Why is he on my TV?

Just attending a terrorist training camp is a federal crime.

How is it a federal crime for a foreign national to attend a terrorist training camp in a foreign country?
posted by kirkaracha at 1:33 PM on May 21, 2009


"If you can't see how that makes for a case that's much easier to prosecute than a case against virtually the entire administration (if the more idealized scenarios some like to throw around were to play out) of a previous, two-term sitting President of the United States, then you're not seeing reality very clearly, IMO."

Well, I guess we can beg to differ how clearly I see things. I'd rather discuss the issue at hand.

What I was reacting to is the idea that criminal proceedings of our POWs is in any way related to typical high-profile criminal trials in the US, particularly examples stated by Pastabagel as OJ, John Gotti, etc. You're talking about prosecuting the Bush administration, which is not what Pastabagel was talking about, and I was replying to his comment.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:34 PM on May 21, 2009


Well, much of this thread reads like a brainstorming session for a cross-over episode of 24 meets West Wing, so it's easy to get confused.
posted by Humanzee at 1:37 PM on May 21, 2009


Dude is 0-2 at preventing domestic terrorist attacks. Why is he on my TV?

Because he's a white, male, straight Republican with a privileged sneer, who has been given carte blanche to break the law, knows it, and is smug about it. Not unlike a couple of the commenters in this thread.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:38 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


There were sweeps of actual civilians in their homes who had no prior involvement whatsoever based on bad tips and other faulty intelligence. A lot of people ended up being imprisoned and tortured who have no relation to terrorism.

Absolutely. I don't think there are many of those left. They'll release those who aren't guitly of anything or guilty of minor crimes.

But there is going to be a residue that can't be tried because of Bush's fuckups. It isn't Obama's fault, but he is stepping up to deal with the problem.

As for holding them until the threat of a GOP comeback passes, I think yes, that's about what will happen.

Pastabagel is right re: prosecutions--not super easy. People act like it is easy. I've done a few criminal cases, and I've served on a criminal jury. It isn't like TV.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2009


This is a charged enough issue that it would have been nice to not have so much editorializing in the post. I'm actually surprised it was not deleted on that basis.

But as to the discussion, Ironmouth is pretty much dead on throughout this thread. There are a few issues I would take a different degree of emphasis on, but he pretty much is coming at this correctly.

While I look at this issue largely from a legal angle, I think Pastabagel hit the political nail on the head: this is not a fight the American people want. They want to clear their throats about the issue, but they don't want the ugly reality of going too deep into it. One rule of cross examinations is to not ask a question unless you know what the answer is going to be. If this were to get down and dirty, I don't think the answer in this instance is going to be what some here are expecting/hoping. And that is a political mess no politician wants.
posted by dios at 1:46 PM on May 21, 2009


...my Administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.

Is there some point to having the prisoners at Guantanamo beyond the fact that we can sidetrack the Constitution by doing it? One our most disappointing trends in the U.S. is the shift in mindset from considering the Constitution a statement of our values and an assertion of rights we think all people should have, toward the idea that it is something more akin to tax code such that it should be exploited for loopholes. The general idea we have that we need only apply the Constitution to citizens within our own borders is shameful, so I'm happy to see Obama trying to reconnect it to our more noble assertions of who we really are.
posted by troybob at 1:50 PM on May 21, 2009


As for holding them until the threat of a GOP comeback passes, I think yes, that's about what will happen.

Ugh, that's just disgusting.
posted by delmoi at 1:53 PM on May 21, 2009


How is it a federal crime for a foreign national to attend a terrorist training camp in a foreign country?

18 U.S.C. § 2339D. Receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization
How Current is This? (a) Offense.— Whoever knowingly receives military-type training from or on behalf of any organization designated at the time of the training by the Secretary of State under section 219(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act as a foreign terrorist organization shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for ten years, or both. To violate this subsection, a person must have knowledge that the organization is a designated terrorist organization (as defined in subsection (c)(4)), that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorist activity (as defined in section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act), or that the organization has engaged or engages in terrorism (as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989).
(b) Extraterritorial Jurisdiction.— There is extraterritorial Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section. There is jurisdiction over an offense under subsection (a) if—
(1) an offender is a national of the United States (as defined in [1] 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States (as defined in section 101(a)(20) of the Immigration and Nationality Act);
(2) an offender is a stateless person whose habitual residence is in the United States;
(3) after the conduct required for the offense occurs an offender is brought into or found in the United States, even if the conduct required for the offense occurs outside the United States;
(4) the offense occurs in whole or in part within the United States;
(5) the offense occurs in or affects interstate or foreign commerce; or
(6) an offender aids or abets any person over whom jurisdiction exists under this paragraph in committing an offense under subsection (a) or conspires with any person over whom jurisdiction exists under this paragraph to commit an offense under subsection (a).
(c) Definitions.— As used in this section—
(1) the term “military-type training” includes training in means or methods that can cause death or serious bodily injury, destroy or damage property, or disrupt services to critical infrastructure, or training on the use, storage, production, or assembly of any explosive, firearm or other weapon, including any weapon of mass destruction (as defined in section 2232a (c)(2) [2]);
(2) the term “serious bodily injury” has the meaning given that term in section 1365 (h)(3);
(3) the term “critical infrastructure” means systems and assets vital to national defense, national security, economic security, public health or safety including both regional and national infrastructure. Critical infrastructure may be publicly or privately owned; examples of critical infrastructure include gas and oil production, storage, or delivery systems, water supply systems, telecommunications networks, electrical power generation or delivery systems, financing and banking systems, emergency services (including medical, police, fire, and rescue services), and transportation systems and services (including highways, mass transit, airlines, and airports); and
(4) the term “foreign terrorist organization” means an organization designated as a terrorist organization under section 219(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.


That's how. Any other questions?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:55 PM on May 21, 2009


Also this attitude that we have to do X Y and Z horrible things or the republicans will take over is just such cowardly bullshit. It's the exact same argument that was used for saying that democrats had to vote for the Iraq war. Or they had no political future. Well look how well that logic worked out for John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. It's just so moronic.

I'm so fucking tired of this FEAR FEAR FEAR B.S. The republicans say everyone should be terrified of terrorists, and then "moderate" Dems say we should be terrified of all those terrified people out there and pull a bunch of bullshit in order to placate them. When did this country turn into a pile of quivering jello molds.

If people can't be prosecuted, then let them go. If you think that's politically difficult, well tough fucking nuts. No one said being president would be a cake walk, it Obama's choice to run and he certainly had some knowledge of what had happened.
posted by delmoi at 1:58 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Absolutely. I don't think there are many of those left. They'll release those who aren't guitly of anything or guilty of minor crimes.
You base this thought on what? We've heard every step of the way, that everyone at Guantanamo was the worst of the worst, now only the bad apples remain. What's different today? You yourself want to hold the people there for political reasons, and the very politicians you support will be deciding who stays and who goes. That's about as corrupt a process as imaginable.

You and dios are projecting your desires onto the American people, and you haven't brought a lot of evidence to bear that they all agree with you. I don't think prosecutions will be easy (either for our war criminals, or for their "enemy combatants"). I just think that they are necessary. And if a few (or even most) people don't get convicted, so be it. It's darkly hilarious that our two resident lawyers are arguing that we should scrap existing law and make things up as we go along.
posted by Humanzee at 2:00 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a charged enough issue that it would have been nice to not have so much editorializing in the post. I'm actually surprised it was not deleted on that basis.

All "editorializing" you might think your keenly-calibrated critical apparatus has detected either directly quotes or paraphrases the relevant linked source material, dios. Except for the line about setting terrorists loose on our strip malls. That was just a pretty obvious joke about how much we love our strip malls.

But thanks for trying to keep me honest, in your inimitable way.

/carry on then
posted by saulgoodman at 2:04 PM on May 21, 2009


If people can't be prosecuted, then let them go. If you think that's politically difficult, well tough fucking nuts. No one said being president would be a cake walk, it Obama's choice to run and he certainly had some knowledge of what had happened.

If the GOP gets back in and goes fucking haywire like they do, you tell the parents of all the sons and daughters that have their kids killed that you did it all because 3 people got waterboarded.

It doesn't matter. Obama isn't going to do what you want. He is going to do what he thinks is right. He thinks it is wrong to let terrorists go.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:06 PM on May 21, 2009


When did this country turn into a pile of quivering jello molds.

About the same time we allowed Republicans to take over our country and make up laws as they go along. From electronic dog collars on domestic flight passengers, letting the VP get away with making his position a fourth branch of government, letting the president rewrite established laws on torture. We just bend over and let them get away with it time and again, without laughing these assholes out of the country or, at least, giving them jail time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:06 PM on May 21, 2009


Of course Cheney's got it all wrong.

Look, people, the housing market sucks. On the other hand, all of the prisoners in Gitmo are going to need somewhere to live. The apartment next to mine has been on the market for way too long, which is indirectly pulling down the value of my property. If releasing the prisoners from Gitmo into the public is what it's going to take to find someone to buy that damn junior 1BR, then so be it.
posted by mkultra at 2:07 PM on May 21, 2009


He thinks it is wrong to let terrorists go.
What terrorists? How do we know they're terrorists?
posted by Humanzee at 2:11 PM on May 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


All "editorializing" you might think your keenly-calibrated critical apparatus has detected either directly quotes or paraphrases the relevant linked source material, dios.

I don't think you know what editorializing means.
posted by dios at 2:12 PM on May 21, 2009


If people can't be prosecuted, then let them go. If you think that's politically difficult, well tough fucking nuts. No one said being president would be a cake walk, it Obama's choice to run and he certainly had some knowledge of what had happened.

I think the idea isn't to be afraid of the consequences, but to take clear-minded, concrete steps to avoid them. I agree there's a lot of fear--particularly among the Dems in congress. There the ones, remember, trying to force President Obama to slow down the plans to shut down the base and put a process in place for trying and determining the legal dispositions of the detainees. This speech specifically rebuffed congress' increasingly tentative, politicized approach to the issue and signals that many detainees will be transferred to Federal facilities and the Federal court system:
Now let me be blunt. There are no neat or easy answers here. I wish there were. But I can tell you that the wrong answer is to pretend like this problem will go away if we maintain an unsustainable status quo. As President, I refuse to allow this problem to fester. I refuse to pass it on to somebody else. It is my responsibility to solve the problem. Our security interests will not permit us to delay. Our courts won't allow it. And neither should our conscience.

Now, over the last several weeks, we've seen a return of the politicization of these issues that have characterized the last several years. I'm an elected official; I understand these problems arouse passions and concerns. They should. We're confronting some of the most complicated questions that a democracy can face. But I have no interest in spending all of our time relitigating the policies of the last eight years. I'll leave that to others. I want to solve these problems, and I want to solve them together as Americans.

And we will be ill-served by some of the fear-mongering that emerges whenever we discuss this issue. Listening to the recent debate, I've heard words that, frankly, are calculated to scare people rather than educate them; words that have more to do with politics than protecting our country. So I want to take this opportunity to lay out what we are doing, and how we intend to resolve these outstanding issues. I will explain how each action that we are taking will help build a framework that protects both the American people and the values that we hold most dear. And I'll focus on two broad areas: first, issues relating to Guantanamo and our detention policy; but, second, I also want to discuss issues relating to security and transparency.

Now, let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people. Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders -- namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety.

As we make these decisions, bear in mind the following face: Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists. As Republican Lindsey Graham said, the idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:18 PM on May 21, 2009


I don't think you know what editorializing means.

You're right, of course. You always are, dios. Hugs and kisses!
posted by saulgoodman at 2:21 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"While I look at this issue largely from a legal angle, I think Pastabagel hit the political nail on the head: this is not a fight the American people want. They want to clear their throats about the issue, but they don't want the ugly reality of going too deep into it."

Well, there is what the American people want, and there is justice. The two are not necessarily mutually inclusive. While politics undoubtedly has to play a role, if we let justice be subverted in the name of Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney, well, there really is no point in calling it justice.

If we do what the American people want but the Iraqi people feel no sense of justice, then we have a different problem, and not one which will go away. I believe that's pretty much how we ended up with this awful relationship with Iraq in the first place, long before GWB became president. The cost of doing this badly will mean we will probably have to go through this again, if we allow politics and the path of least resistance to override doing what should be done to solve the problems, including making unpopular decisions because it will pay us back in the long run far more than any short-term political gain.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:22 PM on May 21, 2009


I hope my uncharacteristic absence wasn't misinterpreted. Had a prior appointment to see Star Trek. [A few criticisms to make, but on the whole, superior entertainment.]

DOJ prosecutions are still a very live possibility.

Wrong.

[[ Another idea floated by the groups was for Obama to go after one key prosecution in the case (Dick Cheney perhaps?) in the hopes of obtaining "a trophy," a head for the troops to rally around, but Obama shot that idea down as well. ]]

"Is said" [to consider preventive detention plan] by whom? And why?

According to The New York Times (FWIW): by two anonymous participants in an off-the-record meeting in The White House between Obama and human rights advocates, attended by both Holder and Axelrod. As for "why"...

[[ “He was almost ruminating over the need for statutory change to the laws so that we can deal with individuals who we can’t charge and detain,” one participant said. “We’ve known this is on the horizon for many years, but we were able to hold it off with George Bush. The idea that we might find ourselves fighting with the Obama administration over these powers is really stunning.” ]]

So we are to release Khalid Sheik Mohammed?


If he can't be convicted in a fair trial - and given the torture we subjected him to, I'm assuming he can't - yes, we release him. Whatever the consequences. Because that's, you know, the law?

Could you provide a link to a news story for ["relocating the gulag to Bagram"]?

[[ Judge John Bates took a stand for human rights and common sense when he ruled yesterday that foreign prisoners held in the U.S. prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan who had been brought there from outside Afghanistan... ]] - emphasis added

This speech confirms the worst, that nothing will be done, but empty words: He's passed the buck on to Congress. Congress' latest opportunity to address Pelosi's claims demonstrates that its members have no interest in pursuing investigations into illegal policies they approved during the Bush years.


That.

Beese, again: It just seems like you and some of the other more strident critics of the administration attribute absolute sacrosanct status to every word that some anonymous source within the byzantine power structure of Washington utters, while at the same time holding every word of President Obama's actual public statements to an impossibly high critical standard.

Ha ha. As in... ?

[[ our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for Guantanamo detainees ]]

While Bush seems to have put it permanently out of fashion, we already have a legitimate legal framework - under which many of the Very Scary Men have been properly convicted and safely imprisoned. Any legal framework that requires "construction" will be a kangaroo court and properly denounced as such.

what is your plan, Mr. Beese?


My plan would be to administer the law of the United States. [However, since I don't trust anyone with the death penalty, I would ask that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, etc. receive life without parole rather than execution for their capital crimes.]

I honestly don't understand why this seems to be such a bewilderingly complex idea to some of you... but there you have it.

Sorry if I overlooked anything. But then this post is already too long.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:24 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


what should be done to solve the problems, including making unpopular decisions because it will pay us back in the long run far more than any short-term political gain.

Doesn't this qualify:
"Now, let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people. Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders -- namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety."
?
posted by saulgoodman at 2:26 PM on May 21, 2009


two anonymous participants in an off-the-record meeting

Ohhhh those guys! Oh yeah, they've got a sterling track record and have handily won my trust.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:28 PM on May 21, 2009


That's how. Any other questions?

Yes. What special cognitive-dissonance training is required to believe simultaneously that that law applies even to non-U.S. persons outside the U.S., but the Constitution doesn't apply to U.S. government actions in all locations?
posted by oaf at 2:34 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Doesn't this qualify:"

Yes, that bit in itself. But we must recreate the system which is handling these prisoners. If we close Gitmo and leave other prison camps open, especially if we do nothing about the innocent people locked up there, then we haven't really addressed the problem, we've just moved it elsewhere. (We also need to allow unfettered, uncensored access to our prison sites by the Red Cross.) I understand that's the goal, but then Obama also said he would vote against telecom immunity. The area of civil liberties and human rights is the one where Obama seems most comfortable to compromise his principles, and that's troubling considering this particular situation.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2009


"That's how. Any other questions?"

Yes, the law states that the person has to have some presence in the US or have committed an act of terrorism in the US, or substantially affecting something like trade routes, which means that, no, not just anyone who has attended training camp anywhere in the world falls under US jurisdiction. Read my original question again.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:47 PM on May 21, 2009


saulgoodman: "Ohhhh those guys! Oh yeah, they've got a sterling track record and have handily won my trust."

I'm certainly in no position to claim that you should take a report in The New York Times at face value.

But if we assume for the sake of argument that it really is the word of an anonymous human rights advocate [one with enough pull to get an audience with not just the President but his posse as well] against Obama's, I'll have no trouble at all siding with the former.

See, they've never lied to me. (As far as I know.) Obama has.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:58 PM on May 21, 2009


If the GOP gets back in and goes fucking haywire like they do, you tell the parents of all the sons and daughters that have their kids killed that you did it all because 3 people got waterboarded.

It doesn't matter. Obama isn't going to do what you want. He is going to do what he thinks is right. He thinks it is wrong to let terrorists go.
Are you talking about people who get killed because republicans get re-elected? Wouldn't that be the fault of the republicans? Are you more afraid of Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber and New Gingrich then KSM? And you think the solution to scary government is to let the government detain people without charges so the mean fuckup party doesn't get elected?

Who's parents? Who's kids? WTF are you even talking about?

You're also not even bother to explain why you think the GOP will get back into power if these guys are let go. I think if it's explained clearly why it's being done most people will understand. Many people won't like it but still be more worried about being governed by republicans then letting a hand full of morons loose in the mountains of Baluchistan. I mean, would you vote republican over it? If not, why do you think anyone else would.

Doesn't this qualify:
"Now, let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people. Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders -- namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety."
?
Qualify for what? How is closing Guantanimo and trying the cases where there is sufficient evidence of their guilt a politically hard choice. He's basically saying 1) If we have good evidence you're guilty, you'll get a trial. 2) if we have weak evidence you're guilty you get a military commission and 3) If we have no evidence you're guilty, we're just going to keep you in jail forever with no trial. How can you excise #1 out of context of the other two?
posted by delmoi at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2009


At least, it doesn't appear that the Times was making the meeting up out of whole cloth. David Waldman writes in Daily Kos:

I sat in on the meeting, and though the understanding was that the substance was off the record, the basics of what was discussed -- and some specifics about the discussion -- have obviously already been reported. ... [Obama] feels that the blight of Guantanamo needs to be erased, and the disposition of the status of the detainees needed to be brought as nearly into compliance with traditional practice as possible.


[emphasis added]

In other words, he'll give only as much due process as he can afford while still insuring a conviction. And if that much happens to be zero, habeas corpus can "go fuck itself" - to use a phrase popularized by his predecessor.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:11 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


“Securing a conviction is never easy, even when everyone knows the guy it.”

Yes. Ever wonder why?

Know what killed more people in the 20th century than anything else? Democide. I think it’s leading this century as well. Terrorism isn’t even in the running. Can’t even catch car accidents.
Intuitively people know that governments, or large mass movements backed by the kind of force a government (et.al) can bring to bear, are incredibly dangerous – more so than terrorists. And that’s why terrorists are terrorists. Because they want to be the government. Because if those fuckers got into power, we know the death camps would run day and night. It’s not just a people problem. It’s the apparatus we need protection from as well.

To reiterate – there are dangerous men, yes. But those men are only dangerous because of the resources they can bring to bear. Cut the resources, the organization, you eliminate the danger. The reason these people are most often killed is because it’s necessary, in that, they make it necessary by being dangerous enough to eliminate other, less straightforward options such as a capture operation.
That does not mean we should obviate the process by which we show cause for killing, capturing or imprisoning them. It doesn’t matter what everyone knows.

In Gotti’s case there was the luxury that, he was not really dangerous. Certainly he was a murderer, extortionist, etc. But he didn’t resist capture with an armed platoon. He came in and forced the government to prove their case. They didn’t. End of story.

Terrorists have been successfully tried and convicted in the U.S. The rest of the world does this ROUTINELY. Every legitimate counterterrorism outfit in the world has the expertise to investigate, pursue, and execute if necessary and be transparent to the legal process and accountable to the public.
Why is this no longer true in the U.S.? Why isn’t it an ingrained policy when (as with torture) everyone who’s an expert in these things speaks contrary to the (apparent) political agenda and talking head asshats on t.v. who’ve never picked up a weapon in their lives but love jerking off over all kinds of goofy scenarios?

“How is it a federal crime for a foreign national to attend a terrorist training camp in a foreign country?”

Well, leaving off the foreign policy stuff and jurisdictional matters, and I’ve got no beef with the law as it is, but from a policy standpoint– you’ve got a huge problem with defining ‘terrorist training camp’ in the first place. WTF is a ‘terrorist training camp’ supposed to be?

If they are actual known terrorists, and they’re training cadre, and you know where they are…

I know there is clandestine training. But that’s sorta the problem. The, y’know, clandestine nature of it. Like saying there’s a bank robber training camp. Yeah - wha?
A guy isn't a bank robber until he robs a bank, no matter how many times he watches Dog Day Afternoon.
You can’t train someone to be a terrorist.If they're on that path in the first place then sure, you can train them in use of firearms and other weaponry. You can train them in military tactics. You can indoctrinate them with certain kinds of thought.
But until they actually put any of that to use, they’re only thought criminals. Terrorists in embryo. Different sort of creature and they need to be handled differently.
If we’re going to start prosecuting people based on their KAs we’re back to square one on the whole “aiding” terrorism b.s. with charities as well (‘terrorism material support center’), etc. and so we’re back into an ideological conflict and we're fighting ideology with brute force.

Again – exactly what they want.

Treat them like the aberrant criminals they are. They deliberately target and kill innocent people. Or they’re conspiring to kill innocent people. Why not nab them on that like any other counterterrorist unit in the world?
(Technically I’ll cede that’s how the law is written – that’s not how we’ve been using it in practice tho')

“If the GOP gets back in and goes fucking haywire like they do, you tell the parents of all the sons and daughters that have their kids killed that you did it all because 3 people got waterboarded.”

Fear of change in the political landscape is reason enough to allow the torture of innocent people to go unaccounted for? Enough reason to let the perpetrators walk?
Your legal reasoning seems solid. But on this particular point you’re way off base. The GOP will go fucking haywire if we DON’T follow this up. Nothing emboldens people like this more than letting them get away with it. I’ve asked men to die for less. If we have to deal with some crazies later, so be it. Hell, this is basic ‘stop hitler when he invades poland’ stuff.

Want to argue method of execution, I’m wide open. It’s a debatable point: 'How?'
But as to –whether- we should pursue this? Not a question in my mind at all. This is not party politics. That might be one means, but this is a truly foundational matter. We don't pursue this, we fracture and perhaps break.
In these conflicts symbolism is everything. Three men waterboarded is more than enough. Hell there's already the hooded guy with the wires hanging from him at Abu Ghraib. We still haven't really gotten out from under that.
The British got taken down by one scrawny guy walking to go make salt.
Now we can argue how they should have or could have dealt with that. There are a number of ways with various potentials for success. But what they should have done is listen to the man and started looking for an honorable exit strategy when he proved their colonialism was no longer viable before they lost more and more men while doing more and more violence because they were afraid to change their policies.
There's not a damned thing protecting the Dems from being crazy either. Johnson escalated, then looked for a 'middle path' in Vietnam. Pretty much screwed the pooch there.
I just don't think people understand the nature of this conflict. Or what our opposition is trying to accomplish. Just because you have someone in prison, or even if you can, or have, killed them, or you attrit their units, doesn't mean you're winning.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:23 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


The people who have been released were small time. These are the big boys.
How do you know?
posted by Flunkie at 3:31 PM on May 21, 2009


Who's parents? Who's kids? WTF are you even talking about?

Attention: Republicans will go hog fucking wild on the Middle East if they are back in power. I am talking about the parents of service people, Iraqis, Afghanis, whoever who will be killed. Don't believe me? Scoreboard.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:33 PM on May 21, 2009


Anyone we can't try or can't convict, we let them go on a sort of high-security parole. They are restricted to a small area, each of them in a different part of the country. We monitor all of their communications and we hire new FBI agents whose sole job is to follow them everywhere.

Actually we're trying to -stop- doing this up here in Canada. We call that sort of lifetime sentence of babysitting for outsiders a 'security certificate' and though we still have them, they're unconsitutional as of the last go round in the courts. The think we have about seven guys under house arrest/wearing GPS ankle cuffs. We're not torturing them (I talked to one, he's got strict parole, but he's mobile) but they're not having much fun either.
posted by Phalene at 3:37 PM on May 21, 2009


Human Rights Watch--which was represented at the big White House national security meeting yesterday--thinks the Obama speech was a bunch of window dressing.

"President Obama is absolutely right to emphasize that ignoring our values undermines rather than enhances America's security," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. "But allowing detention without trial creates a dangerous loophole in our justice system that mimics the Bush administration's abusive approach to fighting terrorism."

That's strikingly similar to language used by the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who, after yesterday's meeting, declared, "I don't see meaningful differences between these detention policies and those erected by President Bush."

posted by Joe Beese at 3:43 PM on May 21, 2009


That's how. Any other questions?

Thanks. I wasn't trying to get in your face, I'm just curious about how this works. And yes, I do have questions.

Is "after the conduct required for the offense occurs an offender is brought into or found in the United States" the part that lets us apply US law to a foreign national in a foreign country, regardless of the legality of how they're brought into the United States? Most of the detainees were swept up off the street or sold for bounty.

The detainees are neither US nationals nor "alien[s] lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States." How does that square with subsection(b)(1)?

How do acts committed in a foreign country occur "in whole or in part within the United States" as specified in subsection(b)(1)?

Section 1 says, "a person must have knowledge that the organization is a designated terrorist organization (as defined in subsection (c)(4))," which says the organization must be "designated as a terrorist organization under section 219(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act." Does that mean we would have to prove a detainee has explicit knowledge of section 219(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act?

It seems like we can make a list of organizations we don't like, go into another country and abduct its citizens, bring them into the US without extradition, and try them for breaking our country's laws. Is that correct? What keeps other countries from doing that to us? (Other than our military might, of course.)

Again, I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm just trying to understand how this works. I was an English major, so if I read something that says it applies to people who are either US nationals or lawfully admitted aliens and it's cited as applying to people who are neither I get confused.

he'll give only as much due process as he can afford while still insuring a conviction

"We're gonna give you a fair trial, followed by a first class hangin'." -- Brian Dennehy in Silverado
I liked it better when Obama reminded me of the sheriff in Blazing Saddles.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:00 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fact is that there is no middle ground when it comes to due process. ... the president has done an incredible job of selling his kinder, gentler War on Terror, and ultimately, the American people will likely have his back, if only because they trust him. In a sense, Barack Obama may be far more dangerous than George W. Bush when it comes to violating our civil liberties; where the American people feared the excesses of Bush, they trust wholly in the sincerity of Barack Obama. At least for now.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:40 PM on May 21, 2009


In other words, he'll give only as much due process as he can afford while still insuring a conviction. And if that much happens to be zero, habeas corpus can "go fuck itself" - to use a phrase popularized by his predecessor.

I guess it's easier to argue with someone when you just invent the other side of the argument.
posted by empath at 4:41 PM on May 21, 2009


Mark Denbeaux's full reports here.

Tidbit;

"One of the Seton Hall Law School students asked me, “Where are the bad guys?” The student then showed me the government’s evidence against a detainee who had been conscripted by the Taliban as an assistant cook.

Our government’s evidence against that detainee in its entirety states:

a. Detainee is associated with the Taliban
i. The detainee indicates that he was conscripted into the Taliban.

b. Detainee engaged in hostilities against the US or its coalition partners.
i. The detainee admits he was a cook’s assistant for Taliban forces in Narim, Afghanistan under the command of Haji Mullah Baki.
ii. Detainee fled from Narim to Kabul during the Northern Alliance attack and surrendered to the Northern Alliance.

My student said, “OK, We have the Assistant cook. Where is Mr. Big? Where is the
cook?”

All Americans should ask that question. I have no answer."

posted by phoque at 4:47 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


empath: "I guess it's easier to argue with someone when you just invent the other side of the argument."

You mean the way it's easier to "construct a legitimate legal framework" to convict someone when you can't do so under the existing one?

A policeman's job is only easy in a police state. - Touch of Evil

posted by Joe Beese at 4:48 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


he referred to the "third category", those who the government believes are dangerous but cannot be tried

Obama didn't invent this category. It's what a Prisoner of War is. Not every person who takes up arms against the US is a criminal that deserves punishment and a trial. But that doesn't mean that they should be released. As long as the third category is limited to people captured on the battlefield, that they are given all the rights that prisoners of war have, and they have tribunals where they can challenge that status regularly, and there is a point at which those prisoners will be released, then I have no problem with it.
posted by empath at 4:51 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem with Gitmo has always been the legally non-existent status of 'unlawful combatant', and the idea that Guantanamo was a legal black hole where US and International Law don't apply. As long as that no longer applies, then I'm satisfied with the changes.

Going forward, as I understand it, the categories are:

1: Criminals who will be trialed in the regular court system.
2: War Criminals who will be tried by military courts.
3: Prisoners of War who are not accused of a crime, who will hwoever be detained until the end of hostilities.

We've eliminated the fourth category of 'unlawful combatants', which was largely comprised of people that Dick Cheney felt like torturing for whatever reason, who were supposed to have no legal rights whatsoever.

The three remaining categories are well established and have long histories in American and International Law.

The only way you can really object to the 3rd category is if you assume that the entire US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan is illegal, and so we have no rights to prosecute the war or take prisoners. I sympathize with the argument, but it seems largely untenable. In any event, which you need to accomplish is an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in which case, we'll be forced to release all the POW's anyway.
posted by empath at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2009


“Republicans will go hog fucking wild on the Middle East if they are back in power”

Yeah, those crazy Republicans with their wild accusations of WMDs and massive bombing campaigns.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:18 PM on May 21, 2009


New Yorker Correspondent Jane Mayer and British Attorney Philippe Sands on Bush Administration Torture and How Obama Should Address It
posted by homunculus at 5:41 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cheney has a lot of people telling him that he can be president in eight years. Seriously.

[citation needed]
posted by rokusan at 6:43 PM on May 21, 2009


Qualify for what?

Look, don't pretend it doesn't take political conviction and courage to stand up in front of America after the recent shit storm of fear-mongering among congressional Republicans, and the accompanying knee-knocking of congressional Democrats and say to the American people, like it or not, some of the guys from GITMO are coming to the United States and will be detained in Federal prison until they are tried in the Federal court system.

As much hay as the media has been making about the numerous polls allegedly showing that Americans don't want any of the GITMO detainees brought to the US prison system and tried in US courts, and as much crap as Republicans and more politically craven Democrats like Reid have been throwing around about the risks (Reid literally issued a statement saying that the detainees would not be allowed to set foot on US soil only the day before this speech), it's absolutely willfully obtuse to pretend it didn't take political courage for President Obama to state categorically that some detainees will be transferred to our maximum security prisons and tried in our courts.

The only way you could deny that is if you're completely ideologically blinkered. And don't give me the usual deflections about how he's done other things that weren't brave enough to meet your standards, or blahblahblah... It took courage, and it showed political spine at a time when almost no one seems to be showing any. If you missed that point, you're just not willing to be satisfied with anything.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:16 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Attention: Republicans will go hog fucking wild on the Middle East if they are back in power. I am talking about the parents of service people, Iraqis, Afghanis, whoever who will be killed. Don't believe me? Scoreboard.

Okay that's what it sounded like your were saying. But why would those people blame the democrats? It seems like they would blame the republicans who actually do it. And by the way -- your argument is that from a moral standpoint, if Democrats aren't nice enough to republicans and appease them, they'll somehow win despite the country hating their guts. And then all the bad things that republicans then do will be the fault of Democrats for doing something unpopular and losing the resulting election?

I remember one of those child kidnapping stories where some pedophile snagged two kids. Turns out this pedophile had a blog and on his blog he was ranting about how much it sucked to be a registered sex offender "level four" -- he been in jail for years and years after molesting another kid as a teenager. He kept on saying that the pressure that society put on pedophiles just made them more problematic and would lead to worse outcomes, as if it was societies fault he was out wanting to rape kids.

Your logic here is similar to his, except rather then this single pedophile claiming that because society was mean to him for being a pedophile, it just made want to do it more. Now you're saying if we're not nice enough to republicans after they've bombed stuff, tortured people, etc that they'll just get elected and start doing it again, and then it would be our fault. It's pretty idiotic.

And by the way, there is a good chance that the republican party would come back to power eventually anyway, unless another political party starts up to replace it as the 'second party' in the U.S. (as the republicans did in the 1850s) That would be my preferred outcome, but it's unlikely. Which means either the democrats stay in power as a one-party state forever, which would breed immense corruption or the republicans get back into power at some point. And if they get back into power without torture being repudiated or punished, they'll just start doing it again. After all, major republicans today are saying it was the right thing to do, and that it should be done again.

Politics is cyclical and if one party is the 'torture party' then at some point torture will be policy again, unless there is a real chance that the perpetrators are actually punished when they cycle out of power.

The argument is so dumb it's hard to take seriously.
As much hay as the media has been making about the numerous polls allegedly showing that Americans don't want any of the GITMO detainees brought to the US prison system and tried in US courts, and as much crap as Republicans and more politically craven Democrats like Reid have been throwing around about the risks (Reid literally issued a statement saying that the detainees would not be allowed to set foot on US soil only the day before this speech), it's absolutely willfully obtuse to pretend it didn't take political courage for President Obama to state categorically that some detainees will be transferred to our maximum security prisons and tried in our courts.
Please. Just because the republicans throw a hissyfit like they do every month doesn't mean anyone actually cares about an issue. Remember when they made a huge deal out of John Kerry's "botched joke" right before the 2006 election? Remember how well that worked out for them?

Poll numbers change when only one side is making an argument. I imagine after this speech, they'll change again. Going against some random poll isn't a political risk anyway unless you count people's intensity of feeling.
posted by delmoi at 7:48 PM on May 21, 2009


jesus delmoi. it's taking all my willpower to keep from making the kind of comment that would be instantly deleted. so i'm calling it a night. you're missing the real picture here, and it's really sad. but if you can't be convinced to rally behind exactly the kinds of decisions you claim to want to see being made, why should anyone else? never mind. don't answer that. my blood pressure's getting too high. i'm done.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:05 PM on May 21, 2009


The motive behind this long game is the idea being played out mostly in the financial press about the end of the "Anglo-Saxon model" and the rise of the French or European model. The perspective on the right is that Obama represents the establishment of the European model in America

That'd work for me except for one inconvenient fact: it was the Bush/Cheney Administration that made it possible to completely and utterly collapse the American system. It's not so much the European model winning as it is Cheney making the American system lose.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:26 PM on May 21, 2009


People whining and rending their clothes -- 'Oh noes, Mr Obama is exactly the same as Bush, OMG WTF whatever shall we do' -- are, to be blunt, not over-bright. They're the kind of hero-worshipping, victim-culture, semi-informed shriekers that pollute the democratic process and leapfrog around the internet yelling loudly about whatever shiny object has distracted you from your goddamn 64-ounce Big Gulps for a few seconds, and are anathema to measured discussion about anything.

I kinda wish they'd just pull in their freaking heads once in a while.

Barack Obama's a politician, tits-deep in a deeply corrupt and compromised political culture that feeds on cupidity and stupidity. He may or may not end up being a great president, or even a good one -- that remains to be seen. Whether there's a long game being played here by anyone but the Republicans (because that's the only game they have left) remains to be seen. But the obvious, predictable and gratingly tedious hungover flipside of 'he's the savior of the republic' is 'he's just liek teh guys I hate' -- heroes always end up with feet of clay, so stop kneeling before heroes. Nothing good has ever come of hero-worship, and nothing ever will.

It's nonsense. Calm down, stop and think, learn from the past, and try, difficult as it may be, to see the world in anything but black and white, guys. No pun intended. I'm as convinced as anyone that America's in deep, with a very small circle of blue waaaay up there at the top, that the well-rope's frayed and shit-greasy, and there's about a hundred people up top peeing down into the shaft...

I think that metaphor got away from me. Still, though: if the Obama administration is not doing what you, as Americans, think it should, then make your voice heard. If the current administration turns out to be as cynically poll-driven as the last few, well, that's bad, but making your voice heard in some constructive way will still have a result, even if it's for the wrong reasons. I begged you guys before the election not to sit back and watch events transpire, even if Obama won the election -- we're depending on you out here in the rest of the world as much as we were then to make sure that your government does the right thing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:18 PM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


jesus delmoi. it's taking all my willpower to keep from making the kind of comment that would be instantly deleted.

Well, I would at least have been able to understand what you meant.

but if you can't be convinced to rally behind exactly the kinds of decisions you claim to want to see being made, why should anyone else? never mind. don't answer that. my blood pressure's getting too high. i'm done.

Alright so I guess you're talking about This comment where I say: "Ironmouth: I'm not a politician and politically, this would be pretty difficult, but look." I said it would be politically difficult but not necessarily impossible. And then later I say (I think) it's important to do what's right, rather then what's politically expedient. Ironmouth seems to think we should keep people in jail because if they're released people will vote republicans. He doesn't actually give any empirical evidence for this.

So many arguments for torture, etc, rest on "conditional prognostication" What I mean is that people think they can predict how people will respond to events. No obviously people can do that to a certain extent. But here Ironmouth and others argue that they can predict people will react incorrectly to certain events. As if they know exactly how stupid the average American is, and how that stupidity would play out.

I mean he says that electing republicans would be horrible for this country, but he's certain that most people don't understand that and will put them back in power for sure if terrorists are released.

I, on the other hand, simply believe that releasing terrorists will not pose much of an increased risk, and I think that people will for the most part reach the correct conclusion.

So I'm simply assuming that the American voters, in aggregate are at least somewhat rational and adult, despite the seeming insanity of those in Washington.

So that's my response to my best guess as to what you're talking about. Beyond that, I'm not even sure. I never said I wouldn't 'rally' to what I was suggesting, I just said it would be politically challenging.

---

Alright looking back past some of the comments, it looks like you might be complaining that I'm not lauding him for being willing to take the heat for releasing some of the prisoners. But why would I do that? I said I don't think it's politically courageous at all because other then a few rightwing freakoids who throw hissyfits every month no one is really opposed to giving trials to the terrorists when there is enough evidence to convict them. The challange is what to do with the alleged terrorists where there isn't enough evidence to convict them.

And I'll say it again. I'm not going to sit around and be terrified by the specter of a mass of quivering jello voters out there who will immediately vote for the republicans if we don't to horrible thing X (where X is invade Iraq, bomb Iran, indefinitely detain terrorists, whatever). That's the exact argument that was used by democrats to justify voting for the Iraq war. And it's a stupid argument to make. No one can predict the future.
posted by delmoi at 9:28 PM on May 21, 2009


And I'll say it again. I'm not going to sit around and be terrified by the specter of a mass of quivering jello voters out there who will immediately vote for the republicans if we don't to horrible thing X (where X is invade Iraq, bomb Iran, indefinitely detain terrorists, whatever).

All right, I took my blood pressure medicine so I can respond now (only sort of kidding)...

I'd never ask you to do that. I'd never do that. Note, I specifically disagreed with Ironmouth on that point somewhere up there like a thousand comments ago. I think most people will come around to accept that we have to take responsibility for the legal black-hole we created in GITMO. And I've never said we should be worried about what the voters will do.

I'm more concerned with how the president manages to work with congress and the other centers of power in Washington.

Despite how some are casting it, this administration doesn't have nearly the insider advantage going in that Bush's did. When Bush first took office, beltway dwellers on both sides of the aisle were lining up to sing the praises of his foreign policy team and to ballyhoo the depth of experience and political savvy of his cabinet. A lot of good will and trust was wasted on the Bush administration on that account. Meanwhile, even if he were perfect (which I've got no illusions about), President Obama's got an uphill battle--not with the voting public necessarily, but with the Washington political and legal establishments, and other power centers like the media and the corporate interests that run it.

And the reality is, it's not clear how we should handle some of the detainees, which is why I think the president's case-by-case approach is sound. Some probably should be released outright. Some should be treated as prisoners of war, and tried by military tribunal (with restrictions on the use of hearsay evidence and other basic features of due process restored). Others should be tried in the criminal courts. And still others should be tried, and probably are actually criminals, but can't be tried under current law because what the Bush administration did to them abnegates any possibility of a fair trial. This last category has to be dealt with somehow, but there aren't any easy solutions. I don't see what the president can do other than work to develop a plan to resolve their status, and that's what he's committed to do. So personally, I'm satisfied with how things are going at this point. Thought that doesn't mean I don't want and expect to see continuing progress.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:12 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're the kind of hero-worshipping, victim-culture, semi-informed shriekers that pollute the democratic process and leapfrog around the internet yelling loudly about whatever shiny object has distracted you from your goddamn 64-ounce Big Gulps for a few seconds, and are anathema to measured discussion about anything.

Not really, no. But you get a cookie for trying to be insulting, even if you failed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 PM on May 21, 2009


*shrug*

Cookies are delicious.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:15 PM on May 21, 2009


the terminators are going to arrive by time machine to rescue the imprisoned Muslim freedom fighters that can prevent the future nuclear war. the superdupermax precautions will not stop the alloy androids and their al-Queda forefathers from simply disappearing into a wormhole of time, thus preventing justice from being served.

izzat how the war of the machines starts? i ain't seen it yet.
posted by Hammond Rye at 12:21 PM on May 22, 2009


I'm more concerned with how the president manages to work with congress and the other centers of power in Washington.

Despite how some are casting it, this administration doesn't have nearly the insider advantage going in that Bush's did. When Bush first took office, beltway dwellers on both sides of the aisle were lining up to sing the praises of his foreign policy team and to ballyhoo the depth of experience and political savvy of his cabinet. A lot of good will and trust was wasted on the Bush administration on that account. Meanwhile, even if he were perfect (which I've got no illusions about), President Obama's got an uphill battle--not with the voting public necessarily, but with the Washington political and legal establishments, and other power centers like the media and the corporate interests that run it.
Well, it's certainly the case that the "power centers" at least the ones I can see seem to be insanely stupid. Just look at Harry Reids comments a couple of days ago talking about how we couldn't possibly put gitmo detainees in US prisons because that would be equivalent to releasing them. The media is absurdly trivial. But do you really think any of these people actually care about Gitmo Detainees? I mean, personally afraid of them? I don't know I guess they could be, but it seems hard to believe they're not just posturing. Hate them maybe -- after all if you do all these horrible things to people it will really make you hate them.

But I don't really think they're afraid of these Gitmo detainees. A lot of them probably don't want to deal with the fact of what we've done and of course republicans are going to want to score points against him. But I don't really think many of these guys are actually afraid of these guys. So I don't know if releasing these guys would really make Obama's job with them any easier.

And finally, what the 'establishment' really cares about: Not seeing taxes raised, either carbon taxes/cap 'n' trade for global warming or regular taxes to pay for health care. That's what they're worried about and they aren't going to change on the basis of these Gitmo detainees.
I don't see what the president can do other than work to develop a plan to resolve their status, and that's what he's committed to do. So personally, I'm satisfied with how things are going at this point. Thought that doesn't mean I don't want and expect to see continuing progress.
This is what Obama actually said about these people:
I want to be honest: this is the toughest issue we will face. We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who have received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, commanded Taliban troops in battle, expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.
Now obviously I don't know what evidence they have or whatever (and neither does anyone else, outside of the government as far as I know) but if they haven't actually broken any U.S. laws: receiving training, leading troops (against other Afghan factions) and hating America aren't crimes as far as I know (I know Ironmouth claimed that it was up thread).

Now, if we interviewed these guys and asked them point blank if they wanted to continue fighting against America, and would definitely set bombs if released, then it seems like you could charge them with making terrorist threats, right? I mean, if you ask someone if they're a terrorist and they say they are and that they say they are planning on committing acts of terrorism then it seems like it would be easy to charge them with something.

But apparently that's not possible in these cases, which makes it seem less likely that it's true that these are totally unrepentant terrorists.

The question isn't "are they aren't they" the question is just "can the American people convinced that everyone we release isn't a threat". It seems like they could be. If officials from the government are saying "These people are not a threat" -- like they are currently saying about hundreds of other detainees -- most people would assume they're not.

I guess what I'm saying is: If you think they're a threat, but you don't have the legal standing to hold them, just let them go and lie to people and say you don't think they're a threat.
posted by delmoi at 12:31 PM on May 22, 2009


delmoi - I'd agree with that except for the 'lie to people' part. I don't think you'd need to. Some people aren't that kind of threat. Some folks are. But they are very very few.

Obama's wrong about characterizing - "in effect at war with" the U.S. Again - buys into the notion that counterterrorism is, or should be, a purely military operation (military forces could act, or act in support, overseas, etc. - not to belabor the point on how gsg9 does things, but, yeah - and be under the control of non-military leadership).

Or, more importantly, that it's under the auspices of the department of defense rather than the DOJ.
That's really the hold up in a nutshell.
They're either soldiers and thus POWs - OR - they're terrorists and so criminals.
They're trying to have it both ways.

I have plenty of training. I've said some harsh things about the country, Bush, etc. - so what, they get to detain me until some nebulous undefined war is "over" because I'm a threat? Plenty of dangerous people out there. Tim McVeigh was a psycho, trained by our own government in a number of dangerous things. He was allowed to walk around right up until he blew up a building. So what, we put tanks in the streets and invade Oklahoma? Treat McVeigh as a POW?

Where this all gets bogged down is where it coincides with the foreign policy agenda.
Obama should make a break from all that. End the "war on terror," deal with Iraq and Afghanistan - but divorce it from counterterrorism.
That b.s. is long over. It was over before Bush said he wasn't interested in finding Bin Laden.

Much of our foreign policy is *causing* terrorism. We have to recognize and remedy that. He's making some good steps in opening dialogue (best way to fight terrorists). But the best way (imho) to convince people is to square them away about a number of things - most importantly - that simply raising your hand against American troops (or wanting to) does not make you a terrorist.
I've pretty much ceded all the stuff on the guys we've picked up under goofy circumstances. That's mostly the security theater crap. So is this.
Obama is a smart man. But going to Harvard doesn't make you a COIN or CT expert. Nor does it mean any of the mindsets of the advisors change.
He's still got to deal with a lot of this.
And, sounds to me, like he's getting a lot of b.s.
Hell, I'd do it, but that's no job for a family man.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:47 PM on May 22, 2009


delmoi - I'd agree with that except for the 'lie to people' part. I don't think you'd need to. Some people aren't that kind of threat. Some folks are. But they are very very few.

I agree that they are not that big of a threat. And actually I was thinking about this a bit more. Imagine you had 30,000 terrorists in prison without proper evidence who you were sure were terrorists. Releasing all 30,000 of those people could plausibly be a threat. There are a ton, you couldn't keep tabs on all of them, and there would be more then enough to put up a good fight in Afghanistan or Pakistan (if they were released there) and could easily diffuse among the population here in the U.S. or anywhere else.

But how on earth could twenty people actually cause that much damage to the U.S? It's absurd.

What I'm talking about though is for people who really do think that these people are at least somewhat dangerous. If you did believe that, you could just pretend you didn't think that was the case, and release these guys along with the batch of people who you know are not dangerous.

We're talking about twenty people. There is no way that 20 people, who have never personally broken any laws, could really pose that great of a threat to the U.S. And if you're so sure that they could, then just wait until they do it and then arrest them. Or if they end up in Pakistan/Afghanistan and fight against the U.S. forces there, then you can bomb them or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 4:25 PM on May 22, 2009


"What I'm talking about though is for people who really do think that these people are at least somewhat dangerous"

Given that they haven't broken any laws, no. But I know for a fact there are people that dangerous. Now - they're not in and of themselves dangerous, and I think that's the myth we have to dispel. So - maybe not 'lie' per se, but sort of straighten out.

Look at someone like Bin Laden - dangerous? (Well, he's pretty tall) For the most part, once you freeze his assets, monitor his connections to his family, anyone that might help him, he's just another schmuck in a cave in hiding.
So you're right. But there are people who are dangerous to whom the laws must still apply. KSM for example. Well, he's not so dangerous anymore. But he was. And perhaps could be again. And even so - we should let him go because we did torture him.

Y'know, a lot of this reminds me of the finger pointing at the moon thing in Zen or the 'no graven images' clause in a lot of religions.
Many people mistake the substantial for the far more important insubstantial elements of a given thing.
It's not the big gold cross that makes one a real Christian. So too - it's not weapons or hardware or training that make a given individual dangerous.
Gandhi was easily one of the most dangerous men on the planet. Anyone that can convince people, not only not to strike, but to stand there and just take a beating? Wow.

Same deal here - it's that insubstantial network. The unseen colleges that indoctrinate in ideology, that are far more dangerous than terrorist training camps.
One guy with the will and brains to organize that kind of system - that guy is dangerous. The world was just lucky Gandhi didn't believe in using terrorist tactics. If he did he'd be truly infamous. At least in the west.

But yeah, 20 people could do that too. That's what makes this so difficult. People look at it from a material standpoint - firearms, bombs, military force - and that's the last thing we should be using.
Hell, the Romans got completely changed, subverted, and finally toppled, by one Jewish carpenter. And their militarism played a huge role in that. They refused to recognize warfare by means other than armies and ballista, etc.
Friend of mine wrote a book on warfare in the modern age and how it's radically changed because states and socio-economic interests, etc. etc. have changed. You're just not going to see state on state warfare (although I argue we're probably going to have one last engagement with China - but he'd argue that's caused more by interests other than state interests - but I digress).

I think Kennedy was smart enough to foresee all this. It's why he created specops as something of its own (SEALs, et.al) rather than under regular forces. He didn't really pull it off, but it was pretty unsophisticated back then. But small wars are most definitely the future. Especially among the nuclear powers. You just don't have the option of full scale warfare with that spectre looming. For good or ill.
So those interests, interested in war, have to go small scale. And that means other small units or organizations with not a lot of military power have a shot at affecting things. (Not to mention advances in communication, cryptotech, portability of explosives, etc. etc. etc.) so a lot of focus gets brought on to them. And they have to use guerrilla tactics, or terrorism (to show we're incapable of ruling), mixed with capturing the minds of folks (so they have to have an ideology)...

So we call those in opposition - what?
Far as I can see that's the problem right now.

On the one hand, I'm saying, yes, there are people that dangerous. And, in this case, no I don't think we have many of those people here, so we're not really discussing them (I don't know for sure, but the odds are we don't), even if we are - they're terrorists and should be treated as criminals. But that aside - innocent, guilty - who are these people in custody?

I mean, they might be POWs or just cab drivers, but they could well be dangerous simply because we call them dangerous. Because in the low intensity, but constant warfare environment we've got, nearly anyone with an opposing ideology is a potential threat.

(I don't necessarily agree with this state of affairs, I'm just describing my end of the animal we're feeling up here)

So what I'm looking at is - eliminate their being 'dangerous' - whether they are or not - by changing our policies. They're in Gitmo only because someone wants them there.
I don't think they're there because it serves the interest of the American people for them to be there. Counterterrorism doesn't work that way. It's better to have someone middlin' dangerous out in the field where you can keep tabs on him so he can lead you to the actual dangerous folks.
Even then - supremacy in that art is using people as though they were a chemical dye to illustrate the structure of the organization and attack the underpinings of the group, and their support, in order to destroy them. Do that, and they're just a mob of angry people, fairly easily dealt with.

So you have to ask - who's interest does it serve to have these people in Gitmo? Or otherwise held in jail?

I mean - there's two kinds of people who really do think they're dangerous - the dupes, the idiots who go on talk shows - and the people who have some sort of interest in it - maybe that's not to be politically embarrassed - maybe it's not to reveal certain elements of our own intelligence structure - but maybe it's for something else. Serving an agenda.

I'm not being paranoid here. Everyone has an agenda. Coca-Cola wants to sell more pop. I'm saying, you want a war, don't want a war, whatever - what we - and perhaps Obama - are going to have to get around is that there is an opposition here and that it's non-trivial.

Plenty of stuff, you see it, if it doesn't make any sense - 9/10 it's part of something else that's going on.
I mean look at, say, the Red Headed League. Sherlock Holmes. You know right away they've invented this cock and bull story and this goofy job to get this red headed guy out of the house. But you don't know, really, who 'they' are. Nor why they want him out of the house for a given period of time.

We're essentially arguing (speaking very broadly here) why the story is suspect. Meanwhile the guy is still out of the house for 1/2 the day and we don't know who's doing all the tunneling or why. Metaphorically speaking, from a foreign policy standpoint.

Like the torture thing. Why do it if every expert says it doesn't work? Clearly, something is going on with a goal other than interrogation for information. Maybe it was to manufacture evidence for a war. Maybe it was bigger - just to agitate so we'd go to war more and defense industries like Halliburton make more money. I'm not putting on my Illuminati tinfoil hat here and speculating. Just sayin' - we still really don't know what they're doing while the red headed guy is out of the house or who they really are.

Now I agree explaining might take some song and dance - so I'm with you there. But I think we're better served by accuracy. If I think someone is really dangerous - I'm going to let them go if we did it improperly. And I'd say - hey, we're better off letting him walk and keeping tabs on him because if he does get back into his organization - we know who he is and he'll lead us to more.

It won't help explain it to anyone's mother that we're all safer if he flips out and kills 3 or 4 people. But by the same token that's the nature of terrorism and that's the battle we've got to fight. The fear.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:55 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Obviously not a solid refutation of anything there, just musing)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:56 PM on May 22, 2009


Obama Administration Files Petition To Block Uighurs From Entering U.S., Praises Gitmo Conditions
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on May 31, 2009


Military: Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay dies in apparent suicide in cell

"His weight was down to about 86 pounds (39 kilograms) in December 2005. He weighed 124 pounds (56 kilograms) when he was first taken to Guantanamo in February 2002."

Damn.
posted by homunculus at 6:44 PM on June 3, 2009


Lakhdar Boumediene Says He Was Tortured at Gitmo
posted by homunculus at 5:09 PM on June 8, 2009


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