Obama's joke trials

The Obama administration says it will continue to detain suspected terrorists even if they are acquitted by American courts or military commissions. Which … you know … means having a trial is just a show.

This news came by way of Spencer Ackerman:

Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson moved the Obama administration into new territory from a civil liberties perspective. Asked by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) the politically difficult but entirely fair question about whether terrorism detainees acquitted in courts could be released in the United States, Johnson said that “as a matter of legal authority,” the administration’s powers to detain someone under the law of war don’t expire for a detainee after he’s acquitted in court. “If you have authority under the law of war to detain someone” under the Supreme Court’s Hamdi ruling, “that is true irrespective of what happens on the prosecution side.”

Martinez looked surprised. “So the prosecution is moot?” he asked.

“No, no, not in my judgment,” Johnson said. But the scenario he outlined strongly suggested it is. If an administration review panel “determines this person is a security threat” and “for some reason is not convicted of a lengthy prison sentence, I think we have the authority to continue to detain someone” under “law of war authority” as granted by the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, Johnson said. And beyond that source of authority “we have the authority in the first place.”

Back in May, we learned that Obama was going to put detainees into three categories. In the first category, they would receive trials in American courts. If there wasn’t enough evidence to convict in an American court, they would be tried in a military commission where the burden of proof is lower. In the event that there wasn’t enough evidence for even a military commission, detainees would not receive a trial at all and instead be held indefinitely.

In other words, the government starts from the assumption that the detainee is guilty and chooses the process to ensure that verdict. But now, they’re not even pretending the trials matter at all. If the government screws up and a court decides you should be free, Obama is going to keep you in jail forever anyways.

I’m angry and disappointed that this sort of thing barely shows up in the news at all. Michael Jackson dies and we get wall to wall “coverage” for weeks. Jeh Johnson announces dictatorial powers for President Obama, and it doesn’t even end up mentioned by the NY Times.

It’s hard for me to think of something more terrifying than being held in prison (and likely tortured), without charges or evidence, for years with no hope of being freed. But this is the power our government is claiming for itself, in contravention of silly ideas espoused in dusty old documents like this and this.


  1. Biff

    I’m willing to live with whatever President Obama deems necessary. I’m sure he’s playing 45 dimensional chess and it’s all a part of his grand progressive strategy. Anyway, it’s unrealistic to expect Him to get everything done in his first term and you should be supporting him and our party instead of criticizing him and our party.

  2. dick cheney

    Yes, clearly there is no room for criticism of this administration and the Messiah at all in our party. Ha ha.