The return of civil liberties


I had to work on a project for my day job today that kinda made me happy.

That project: I had to find an expert that could talk about how the executive order that President Barack Obama signed requiring that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp be closed within a year would impact the war on terrorism and what that means for our relationships with other countries.

Considering that Guantanamo Bay is second only to Abu Ghraib in terms of places that scream “We’ve got Torture and Shit!”, and it was a roach motel where people get locked up, but they don’t come back out, I was quite glad to see that the new Head Dude made good on that particular promise.

Now you’re probably going to hear a lot of folks say that a year is too long and that these guys should be released, and now. But there are a couple of things that make the year time limit make sense, at least according to the folks that I interviewed.

One, some of these folks no longer have homes to go to, according to Peter Spiro, a law professor at Temple University. The logic on the part of their countries of origin is that if you believe they’re that dangerous, why should we take them back?

Somehow, that makes sense to me. If Timothy McVeigh had been put in Guantanamo Bay, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have wanted him to come back here. He gave up his right to the creature comforts of America when he parked that Ryder truck filled with fertilizer in front of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Two, since there’s a crisis of confidence with some of the evidence collected against these guys, doing a full-scale federal court thing may not yield convictions…and some of these guys do need to be in a lockup somewhere, Spiro says.

So…here are some of the options that Spiro says we have:

*Start from scratch: Since the military tribunal system has been thoroughly discredited, something must be created that isn’t quite the federal court system, but gives the accused more rights than the tribunals did.

*Try those detainees for whom the evidence collected passes the smell test in Federal Court. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University said on last night’s edition of “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” that he likes this approach. He doesn’t believe that a new court is needed.

*We could transfer the detainees back to Baghram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, but that would be a bad idea, Spiro says. That’s because the International Community is already staring at this Air Force base and is ready to pronounce it “Guantanamo: The Sequel!” It wouldn’t make sense to open up another place where folks can be tortured when you’ve just closed a place where folks were tortured.

*Do something similar to involuntary committment for high-value detainees for whom the evidence to convict wouldn’t stand up in federal court. Again, if you’re releasing folks because they weren’t given due process or habeus corpus, this also wouldn’t be a good look because it implies force.

So what is Obama going to do? It’ll be interesting to watch.

But considering the fact that I’m still pissed off with him about agreeing to the Bush Administration’s amendments to the FISA Act, Obama has a really short leash with me on civil liberties issues.

However, I’ll give him props for at least making a start.

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