A very interesting exchange. Below is a transcript from the recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the legal treatment of terrorism suspects. It is between Sen Mel Martinez and Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson. Don’t forget that Johnson’s remarks reflect the current administration’s policy concerning these suspects [emphasis added]:
Martinez: If we are doing Article III [civilian] trials…we then also are talking about closing Guantanamo by the end of the year. There’s no way for 220-some-odd people to be prosecuted through some proceeding, whether Article III or military commissions, in that time frame. So where will they then be? I guess they’ll be here. And what about those who are acquitted? Where do they go? What happens to them?
Johnson: You’re correct. You can’t prosecute some significant subset of 229 people before January. So those that we think are prosecutable and should be detained, we will continue to detain, whether it’s at Guantanamo or someplace else. The question of what happens if there’s an acquittal…I think that as a matter of legal authority, if you have the authority under the laws of war to detain someone…it is true irrespective of what happens on the prosecution side.
Martinez: So therefore the prosecution becomes a moot point?
Johnson: Oh no, I’m not saying that at all. You raised the issue of what happens if there’s an acquittal, and in my judgment, as a matter of legal authority…if a review panel has determined this person is a security threat…and should not be released, if for some reason he is not convicted for a lengthy prison sentence, then as a matter of legal authority I think it’s our view that we would have the ability to detain him.
I’m completely in the dark as to how this administration, after all its condemnation and demonization of the previous administration is one iota different when it comes to the question of these detainees.
Again, it seems more like form over substance. It is about “Gitmo”, not rights for detainees or “fair trials” or whatever, is it? It’s about closing down a place. The detainees, however – except for those vacationing in Bermuda – are essentially in the very same place that they were in when the previous administration was in power. In fact, it could be argued that they had a better chance with the previous administration. Although they were slow in getting the tribunals going, I don’t recall any mention of ignoring an acquittal and keeping the detainee in prison anyway.
Due process? We don’t need no stinkin’ due process.
I seem to remember the left was ready to impeach Bush and put him on trial as a war criminal for this sort of thinking.
Let freedom ring.