// Obama Planning US Trials for Gitmo Detainees
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blackrose
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« on: Nov 10, 2008 03:30 PM »


salaam
If he can do this, I give it to him! considering military trials which mcain wanted to conitinue are proven flawed by experts

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Obama planning U.S. trials for Gitmo detainees
President-elect has described camp as ‘sad chapter in American history’
 
updated 2 hours, 23 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice.

During his campaign, Obama described Guantanamo as a "sad chapter in American history" and has said generally that the U.S. legal system is equipped to handle the detainees. But he has offered few details on what he planned to do once the facility is closed.

Under plans being put together in Obama's camp, some detainees would be released and many others would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts.

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A third group of detainees — the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information — might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks. Advisers participating directly in the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren't final.

Sharp deviation from Bush administration
The move would be a sharp deviation from the Bush administration, which established military tribunals to prosecute detainees at the Navy base in Cuba and strongly opposes bringing prisoners to the United States. Obama's Republican challenger, John McCain, had also pledged to close Guantanamo. But McCain opposed criminal trials, saying the Bush administration's tribunals should continue on U.S. soil.

The plan being developed by Obama's team has been championed by legal scholars from both political parties. But it is almost certain to face opposition from Republicans who oppose bringing terrorism suspects to the U.S. and from Democrats who oppose creating a new court system with fewer rights for detainees.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and Obama legal adviser, said discussions about plans for Guantanamo had been "theoretical" before the election but would quickly become very focused because closing the prison is a top priority. Bringing the detainees to the United States will be controversial, he said, but could be accomplished.

"I think the answer is going to be, they can be as securely guarded on U.S. soil as anywhere else," Tribe said. "We can't put people in a dungeon forever without processing whether they deserve to be there."

The tougher challenge will be allaying fears by Democrats who believe the Bush administration's military commissions were a farce and dislike the idea of giving detainees anything less than the full constitutional rights normally enjoyed by everyone on U.S. soil.

"There would be concern about establishing a completely new system," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Judiciary Committee and former federal prosecutor who is aware of the discussions in the Obama camp. "And in the sense that establishing a regimen of detention that includes American citizens and foreign nationals that takes place on U.S. soil and departs from the criminal justice system — trying to establish that would be very difficult."



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Dec. 5, 2007: Guantanamo headache for new president
Newsweek:Obama unlikely to close Gitmo soon


Hybrid court
Obama has said the civilian and military court-martial systems provide "a framework for dealing with the terrorists," and Tribe said the administration would look to those venues before creating a new legal system. But discussions of what a new system would look like have already started.

"It would have to be some sort of hybrid that involves military commissions that actually administer justice rather than just serve as kangaroo courts," Tribe said. "It will have to both be and appear to be fundamentally fair in light of the circumstances. I think people are going to give an Obama administration the benefit of the doubt in that regard."

Though a hybrid court may be unpopular, other advisers and Democrats involved in the Guantanamo Bay discussions say Obama has few other options.

Prosecuting all detainees in federal courts raises a host of problems. Evidence gathered through military interrogation or from intelligence sources might be thrown out. Defendants would have the right to confront witnesses, meaning undercover CIA officers or terrorist turncoats might have to take the stand, jeopardizing their cover and revealing classified intelligence tactics.

In theory, Obama could try to transplant the Bush administration's military commission system from Guantanamo Bay to a U.S. prison. But Tribe said, and other advisers agreed, that was "a nonstarter." With lax evidence rules and intense secrecy, the military commissions have been criticized by human rights groups, defense attorneys and even some military prosecutors who quit the process in protest.

"I don't think we need to completely reinvent the wheel, but we need a better tribunal process that is more transparent," Schiff said.

That means something different would need to be done if detainees couldn't be released or prosecuted in traditional courts. Exactly what that something would look like remains unclear.

According to three advisers participating in the process, Obama is expected to propose a new court system, appointing a committee to decide how such a court would operate. Some detainees likely would be returned to the countries where they were first captured for further detention or rehabilitation. The rest could probably be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts, one adviser said. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks, which have been private.

Whatever form it takes, Tribe said he expects Obama to move quickly.

"In reality and symbolically, the idea that we have people in legal black holes is an extremely serious black mark," Tribe said. "It has to be dealt with."

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« Reply #1 on: Nov 13, 2008 04:57 PM »

Obama's plans for probing Bush torture
President Bush could pardon officials involved in brutal interrogations -- but he may also face a sweeping investigation under the new president.

By Mark Benjamin

Nov. 13, 2008 | WASHINGTON -- With growing talk in Washington that President Bush may be considering an unprecedented "blanket pardon" for people involved in his administration's brutal interrogation policies, advisors to Barack Obama are pressing ahead with plans for a nonpartisan commission to investigate alleged abuses under Bush.

The Obama plan, first revealed by Salon in August, would emphasize fact-finding investigation over prosecution. It is gaining currency in Washington as Obama advisors begin to coordinate with Democrats in Congress on the proposal. The plan would not rule out future prosecutions, but would delay a decision on that matter until all essential facts can be unearthed. Between the time necessary for the investigative process and the daunting array of policy problems Obama will face upon taking office, any decision on prosecutions probably would not come until a second Obama presidential term, should there be one.

The proposed commission -- similar in thrust to a Democratic investigation proposal first uncovered by Salon in July -- would examine a broad scope of activities, including detention, torture and extraordinary rendition, the practice of snatching suspected terrorists off the street and whisking them off to a third country for abusive interrogations. The commission might also pry into the claims by the White House -- widely rejected by experienced interrogators -- that abusive interrogations are an effective and necessary intelligence tool.

A common view among those involved with the talks is that any early effort to prosecute Bush administration officials would likely devolve quickly into ugly and fruitless partisan warfare. Second is that even if Obama decided he had the appetite for it, prosecutions in this arena are problematic at best: A series of memos from the Bush Justice Department approved the harsh tactics, and Congress changed the War Crimes Act in 2006, making prosecutions of individuals involved in interrogations more difficult.

Instead, a commission empowered by Congress would have the authority to compel witnesses to testify and even to grant immunity in exchange for information. Should a particularly ugly picture emerge, the option of prosecutions would still theoretically be on the table later, however unlikely.

In Obama's camp, there is a sense among some that such a commission would essentially mean letting Bush get away with crimes. "People have called for criminal investigations," one person familiar with the talks told me this summer as plans got under way. On Wednesday, a person participating in the talks confirmed that some people involved in the planning felt strongly that the commission would amount to "bullshit" and that Bush officials should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But few think prosecutions are realistic, given the formidable legal hurdles and the huge policy problems competing for Obama's attention. Among them is the complicated task of closing down the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, which Obama advisors say is a priority. Some observers outside the Obama camp are also questioning how much Democrats really want exposed with regard to interrogation, since top Democrats in Congress were briefed in secret on some of the harshest tactics used by the CIA and appear to have done little, or perhaps nothing, to stop them.

Further complicating the Obama team's planning is uncertainty about what President Bush might do. On the one hand, a blanket pardon for anyone involved in the interrogations could be viewed by the public as a tacit admission of colossal wrongdoing -- after years of public denial -- which would do nothing to help Bush's tarnished legacy. Yet, if the administration fears an investigation will follow Bush out the door in January, they may not want to leave officials exposed to potentially revealing criminal proceedings. Bush might seek to frame a blanket pardon as a preemptive strike against wrongheaded, partisan retribution.

Constitutional scholars say a pardon of this kind would be an unprecedented move -- the prospective pardon of not just individuals but entire categories of people, perhaps numbering in the thousands, for carrying out the president's orders , which the White House has argued all along were legal.

Those scholars agree, however, that Article II of the Constitution gives Bush much latitude: There is no authority that can stop the president from doing so if he wishes, and there is no outside check or balance to revisit such a decision, however controversial it may be. "The president can do with pardoning power whatever he wants," explained University of Wisconsin Law School professor Stanley Kutler. "It is complete and plenary unto itself."

A blanket pardon from Bush could cover, for example, anyone who participated in, had knowledge of, or received information about Bush's interrogation program during the so-called war on terror. Not only are there potentially too many people to name without risking missing somebody, but some of the names are presumably classified.

"The classic pardon is an identifiable individual; here you are talking about potentially thousands of people involved in illegal activities," explained Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School. A blanket pardon of this variety, Turley said, "would allow a president to engage in massive illegality and generally pardon the world for any involvement in unlawful activity."

There are, in fact, some constitutional scholars who believe a pardon might actually facilitate more complete participation in a fact-finding commission, by removing the threat of looming liability. "Holding people accountable is certainly nice, but in terms of healing the country and moving forward, so is actually getting a clear picture of what happened and letting the public make an informed decision," said Kermit Roosevelt at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. "If we had a pardon followed by something like a truth and reconciliation commission, that might not be such a bad outcome." (Roosevelt represents a detainee held at Guantánamo.)

The politics of it would be fraught with danger, however, and could so blemish Bush's legacy that some doubt he would go so far. "A pardon is an admission of guilt," noted Donald Kettl, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Bush has argued for years that his interrogation program was perfectly legal. With a pardon, Kettl said, Bush is essentially saying, "Gee, maybe we did not do the right thing."

It is not entirely unprecedented for a president to grant a pardon based on a category of behavior, rather than pardoning an individual by name. The day after his inauguration, President Carter pardoned all those who avoided the Vietnam draft by failing to register or by fleeing to Canada. George Washington pardoned participants in the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion. Andrew Johnson pardoned Confederate soldiers in 1865.

But these were pardons designed to foster reconciliation, handed out to categories of individuals who acted on their own conscience, rather than the president's own allegedly illegal orders. "This would be a different deal completely," explained Kettl. "It would be anticipating that people thought the official policy of the administration was wrong."
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