President Obama has decided to keep the system of Military Commissions established by Congress on President Bush's recommendation to try at least some of the approximately 240 detainees still held at Guantanamo. Immediately after taking office, Obama had suspended the tribunals, which he criticized sharply throughout his campaign, and ordered that the Gitmo facility be closed within a year. According to some reports, the Administration plans to try 10 to 20 "high value" detainees, like 9/11 planner Khalid Sheik Mohammed, before the tribunals after revamping them to give the detainees additional due process protections.
As with his decision to oppose the release inflammatory photos of alleged military abuse of al Qaeda prisoners, Obama is showing a willingness to backtrack on his earlier positions and to shrug off pressure from the left wing of the Democratic Party when necessary. In this case, after a close look at the lineup of al Qaeda thugs held at Guantanamo, he appears to have come to the conclusion that the safety and security of the United States demands holding them -- even indefinitely. Good for him.
As I noted back in November, when I posted,"Without Gitmo, we'll need...another Gitmo!", the Obama team was even then hedging its bets. On the one hand, they were sticking to Obama's campaign pledge to close Gitmo -- which he honored by his announcement on January 22. On the other, they were telling reporters that closing Gitmo might "require the creation of a new legal system to handle the classified information inherent in some of the most sensitive cases." That's pretty much what Obama has decided to do in reviving the Military Commissions but revising the way they will operate to better withstand the inevitable judicial review.
What's your opinion of how Obama is doing on this front? Post a comment.
UPDATE -- It's official. The Military Tribunals will be used.