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Civil Libertarians Deny Assenting to Reported Obama Administration Plan for Indefinite Detention

I’m still trying to figure out how the Obama administration could believe that civil liberties groups gave it cover to issue an executive order authorizing “prolonged detention” of suspected terrorists, as Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn reported on Friday. Ginny Sloan, president of the Constitution Project — which has made its feelings on detention known to the administration — says she doesn’t know of any civil libertarians endorsing such a thing. “All we can do is hope that this is not a real proposal,” Sloan says. “The Constitution Project is on record opposing a proposal for any system of preventative detention, and we hope this is not something the administration is considering.”

Writing over at Daily Kos, David Waldman, who attended the administration’s May 20 heart-to-heart with civil liberties groups, is similarly perplexed, and doesn’t recall anyone at that meeting making such a suggestion:

My memory of that meeting, of course, is by no means the definitive record. But given the specific focus of my own participation in that meeting, it seems rather unlikely that I would have missed anyone’s suggestion that such a policy be implemented by unilateral action of the President. In fact, my comments at the meeting began with the specific warning that any new policies put in place by this administration would undoubtedly survive it, only to be abused by some succeeding administration, no matter what President Obama’s intentions in implementing them. So while I see the point in arguing that an executive order can be more easily rescinded, it also seems obvious that it can be reissued just as easily. Or more likely, that a new and more draconian one can be issued in its place, with President Obama’s serving as precedent. I doubt that would have escaped notice or comment.

An administration official emailed Marc Ambinder to walk the executive order story back. Waldman doesn’t find the denial compelling.

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