Obama Risks Credibility by Reinstating Discredited Military Commissions
Well, you’ve got to hand it to President Obama. He doesn’t really worry too much about pleasing the people who most ardently supported him as a presidential candidate. As Spencer wrote, Obama is expected to announce today that he will revive the much-criticized military commissions to try detainees held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The government will try some Guantanamo detainees in federal courts, anonymous officials tell The Los Angeles Times, but administration officials “have concluded that some detainees can only be tried in military tribunals.” As I wrote earlier this week, the only real reason for that is the desire to introduce evidence against the detainees that could not hold up in a federal court because it’s typically not reliable. That is, because it’s hearsay (or double or triple hearsay, as much of the evidence gathered by the CIA is); or because it was coerced from either the detainee himself, or from others subjected to coercive interrogations. And as the evidence has now shown, in testimony from witnesses ranging from former FBI agent Ali Soufan to alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that’s just not the kind of evidence you want to hang a conviction on. Civil rights, human rights and criminal defense lawyers — even many current and former federal prosecutors — are going to be seriously disappointed. That’s because legal experts from across the political spectrum have been saying for months now that the federal court system is well-equipped to handle these cases. More than hurting any alleged terrorists, this decision will disappoint Obama’s supporters and damage the credibility of the United States and its new, widely admired president, both at home and abroad.