Friday, May 15, 2009
They're back! Obama to revive military commissions to try terror suspects
Maybe the most important thing to remember is that the Obama administration is still a work in progress, even if it is filled with very smart, capable people and led by an apparently very smart and capable president. Otherwise, it's hard to see Barak Obama's expected decision today to resume military trials for high-profile terror suspects as anything but a betrayal of a promise he made to millions of voters in the 2008 presidential campaign. If media reports are true, Obama plans to announce today that the Bush-era military commission system will be reinstituted, albeit with changes to better-protect detainees' rights, according to Cable News Network (CNN). CNN cited three unamed administration officials who said the commission trials would resume with expanded due process rights for suspects. Among the changes will be outlawing the use of evidence obtained using controversial invasive interrogation techniques, new restrictions on the use of unsubstantiated allegations, guaranteeing the right to remain silent and allowing suspects more say in choosing their lawyers, according to a statement released by the White House. "These reforms will begin to restore the Commissions as a legitimate forum for prosecution, while bringing them in line with the rule of law," Obama said in the statement. "This is the best way to protect our country, while upholding our deeply held values." Administration critics and some allies jumped on the statement, calling it a retreat. The administration denied that, but that's exactly what it was. Obama apparently decided that it was not worth all the problems that completely doing away with the commissions would create, even though he strongly objected to them in Congress and during the campaign. But some commentators speculated that Obama's decision merely reflected the difference between campaigning and governing.