Nestled among a string of improbable victories President Barack Obama racked up in the lame-duck congressional session is legislation containing the most debilitating setback to date to his plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) and send many of its detainees to trials in civilian courts in the U.S.
Language contained in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House and Senate bars the use of Pentagon funds to transfer any Guantanamo prisoner to the U.S. for any reason, including a trial.
Some supporters of plan Obama announced on his first full day in office to close the prison said the passage of the legislation signals nearly complete capitulation by the president.
For about a year, senior national security officials have struggled with the issue of whether to try alleged Sept. 11 plotters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a military commission or a civilian court — and, if so, where.
The new legislation seeks to short-circuit that process by leaving military commissions as the only trial option. Other new requirements in the legislation could slow or stop transfers from Guantanamo to other countries.
In recent days, Attorney General Eric Holder warned that the limits could violate the Constitution by intruding on the executive branch’s right to make decisions about where prosecutions should be brought.
While congressional Republicans and some Democrats have repeatedly backed measures to keep the 174 remaining Guantanamo prisoners put, some conservative Republican lawyers have expressed concerns that the legislative technique used in the current defense bill is ill-considered and unconstitutional.
“One bad idea does not excuse another,” former Justice Department lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey. “This is a step too far. The president is the chief federal law enforcement officer and prosecutor.
Whether, when and where to bring a particular prosecution lies at the very core of his constitutional power. Conditioning federal appropriations so as to force the president to exercise his prosecutorial discretion in accordance with Congress’s wishes rather than his own violates the Constitution’s separation of powers.”
Citizens are outraged as well with rallies being held and people holding signs saying “Dont give US rights to war criminals” and “Not in my backyard!”
Talk about a way to drop your property value.
Copyright (c) January 10, 2011.