Obama Confirms Intent to Use Military Commissions, Indefinite Detention

Created: May 21, 2009 12:21 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

While everyone’s railing about the incredibly nasty speech by former Vice President Dick Cheney this morning — who takes credit for preventing terrorist attacks against the United States by using “enhanced interrogation techniques,” even as he neglects to mention that he and President Bush could have but did nothing to stop the attacks on September 11 about which they had specific warnings — I thought it might be worth mentioning a couple of highlights of President Obama’s fair and reasoned speech, which stands in sharp contrast to Cheney’s.

Though cloaked in much more elegant language and inspiring pride in the loftiest aspirations of the U.S. Constitution, President Obama did indeed confirm that he intends to revive the military commissions — albeit with additional safeguards, he says — and that he believes there are some people who cannot be tried in any sort of court but are still too dangerous to be released. As much as those determinations will disturb civil liberties advocates, you could see in his speech that Obama is taking pains to find a legal justification for his actions, and — the good news — he acknowledged the need to submit all such actions to the oversight of Congress and the federal courts.

As I wrote yesterday, a recent federal court decision confirms his power to detain those at war with the United States, but defined who those people actually are more narrowly than the Obama administration has previously.