President Obama signed an executive order on Monday, giving the go-ahead to a formal system of indefinite detention for those locked up at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, which includes new military commission trials for detainees. The new announcements contradict a previous executive order Obama signed more than two years ago, promising to close the place.
The executive order recognizes the reality that detainees will probably still be in U.S. custody for years to come, so the new system will allow them to plead their case that they don't pose a threat. It continues to be a complex issue, as the U.S. has to watch its back at the risk of violating human rights. Predictably, the criticism began almost immediately. "It is virtually impossible to imagine how one closes Guantanamo in light of this executive order," said ACLU executive director, Anthony Romero. "In a little over two years, the Obama administration has done a complete about-face." The administration claims they have the legal authority to hold all detainees under the laws of war, and have received Federal court backing on that score, although some of the courts think there are some prisoners who should be released for lack of evidence.
Under the new guidelines, detainees will get a full review every three years, and a paper review every six months. The new order has no bearing on Yemenis though, because the administration has decided not to release them, even those cleared for repatriation, due to Yemen's perceived inability to reintegrate and monitor any returned detainees.
Attorney General Eric Holder had his boss's back yesterday, saying in a statement:
"Unfortunately, some in Congress have unwisely sought to undermine this process by imposing restrictions that challenge the Executive Branch's ability to bring to justice terrorists who seek to do Americans harm. We oppose those restrictions, and will continue to seek their repeal."