May 15th, 2009
05:20 AM ET
14 years ago

Obama resuming military commissions

WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a move that could reignite tensions with liberals in his own party, President Barack Obama is planning on Friday to resume the Bush administration's highly-controversial military commissions system - which Obama suspended his first week in office - for some Guantanamo detainees, according to three administration officials.

Some of the high-profile terror suspects who are currently being charged in the tribunal process include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

The administration officials stressed that the updated system will include expanded due-process rights for the terror suspects, which administration officials note is consistent with what Obama pushed for as a Senator in 2006 in order to improve upon the widely-criticized approach created by the Bush administration.

But those enhancements are not likely to calm the concerns of liberal groups, led by the ACLU, which are already furious about Obama's shift this week to block the release of photos showing prisoners allegedly being abused by U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, called the expected new approach on military tribunals "fatally flawed" despite the changes.

"The military commissions are built on unconstitutional premises and designed to ensure convictions, not provide fair trials," Romero said in a prepared statement released earlier this week after speculation about the restart of military tribunals first surfaced. "Reducing some but not all of the flaws of the tribunals so that they are 'less offensive' is not acceptable; there is no such thing as 'due process light.'"

Two of the administration officials said the President will also leave open the option of starting civilian trials on U.S. soil for some of the detainees. But that, too, is a fiercely-debated issue on Capitol Hill because of concerns by lawmakers in both parties about where the terror suspects will be kept during such trials.

Obama suspended the tribunals by signing an executive order on his third day in office, the same day he signed an order closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, and revealed his administration would conduct a 120-day review of the whole process. That review comes due next week.

"The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism," Obama said on January 22. "And we are going to do so vigilantly, we are going to do so effectively, and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals."

Eager to head off criticism from liberals, administration officials note that during the 2006 Senate debate over the Military Commissions Act, Obama called the Bush administration's approach "sloppy" and pushed for another version of the legislation with enhanced rights for detainees.

"Instead, we have rushed through a bill that stands a good chance of being challenged once again in the Supreme Court," Obama said on the Senate floor on September, 28, 2006. "This is not how a serious administration would approach the problem of terrorism."

Filed under: Guantanamo • President Obama
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Joan , Ontario

    I read a headline that said that Pres. Obama was reinstating "Bush's tribunals". That's very misleading and meant to sensationalize the issue. Everyone knows that since Pres. Obama is a fine constitutional lawyer, these tribunals will be very different from anything that was done during the Bush era. If Bush and Cheney had their way, people would languish in prison forever with no charges, representation and access to any kind of trial. How un-American. Why don't you wait for the facts about these new tribunals before jumping to conclutsions again?

    May 15, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  2. Tim

    Who's keeping track of all the flips-flops Obama is doing on national security issues. His gullible followers actually believed what he said during the campaign. Will anyone in the MSM ask him why he keeps changing his mind on these things? It sounds to me like Obama is being rolled by the military and intelligence communities. He's a little boy, playing a big boy's game.

    May 15, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  3. Tarheel

    While I mostly disagree with President Obama's overspending on the economy and the monster deficit, I have been pleasantly surprised at his handling of the War on Terrorism and Afghanistan. While some of the Democratic Leaders such as Nancy Pelosi would rather play Political Gotcha games with the previous administration, Obama seems to have a better grasp of what being the Head of the Military really requires. He may actually turn out to be a decent Military Leader if he can resist the huge influence of the left (and the far right too for that matter) and instead lead as his Military Advisors and his own conscience tells him to. All in all, not a bad start.

    May 15, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. porchhound

    Here is your CHANGE folks

    May 15, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. Chad

    I, like most people, voted for Obama in the hope that he would restore law and order to the executive branch, bring accountability to government, and END THE WAR IN IRAQ.
    Ho Hum, more of the same...

    May 15, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  6. Kurt C.

    It will be amusing to see how liberals scramble to now say that this is a good idea when they said for years it was a bad idea when Bush was doing it.

    May 15, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  7. Obama Victim

    Obama embraces yet another Bush policy................are you libs counting the betrayals???

    May 15, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  8. Amy

    I supported Obama in the general election because of the break he promised from Bush era policies. I feel misled. He's not acting like change; he's acting like more of the same!

    May 15, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  9. Joe the Troll

    Between this and the photos, it's starting to look like I might as well have voted for the directionless old fool and his beauty pageant sidekick.

    May 15, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  10. Keith in Austin

    It's good to see Obama make the right decision and not fall prey to the ACLU and radical politicians in the Democratic Party.

    May 15, 2009 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  11. dentri

    What people expect !he knew better was a mistake to close.But maybe he start to see teh light he can't be just the way his liberal wing wanted...This country is better than that...America will be better anyway...You see the hate coming from Liberal media,how they manipulate anything to get him elect.i see they pay the price too,their revenue ,their assets,anything...Just because they thought this guy is cool.

    May 15, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  12. Jeff

    Next we'll find out that Obama tortured Al Qaeda suspects to protect the US. Maybe there is hope for this guy.

    May 15, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  13. Pat F

    Barry has been doing a little growing up lately. Now THAT is change we can believe in.

    May 15, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  14. 4 and The Door

    I just wish he would have had the sense to change his mind on the auto bailouts too before they blew $50 billion of this country's wealth to end up in the same place just stretching out the pain longer.

    May 15, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  15. panem et circenses

    This is too, too funny!

    If you believed the guy during the campaign you fall into one of two camps at this point:

    1) Upset that he turned out to be a liar (liberal moonbats)

    2) Relieved that he turned out to be a liar (the rest of us)

    May 15, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. Randolph Carter

    Mississippi Mike, glad to have you back. I was getting a little concerned when you didn't chime in right away on this topic.

    Seriously, some of you don't get it. He's just making sure these suspects go through some sort of legal process instead of just letting them rot in prison with no charges against them as the preceding administration did. I don't see that as a flip flop at all. He's just taking care of business. As he should. Have a nice day.

    May 15, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. JP

    It appears that the ACLU is a bigger danger to the country than the terrorists.

    May 15, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. Steve

    Really, what did you people expect? And Purple Spider, I could not agree with you more. F_ck the ACLU!

    May 15, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. Melissa

    Honestly? Oh well. Its just an investigation into what they did. Thats fine. But no torture or abuse.

    Rethugs are making too big a deal out of this.

    A suspension is only temporary. He never said he would shut it down completely and forever. Suspending it until he could change the rules was the only way to work it properly.

    May 15, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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