ACLU on Johnson: ‘The Latest Example of Chaotic Debate’ on Detentions
I asked the American Civil Liberties Union’s Chris Anders, a military commissions opponent, to react to Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson’s indication that the administration might consider detaining someone even after he’s been acquitted of wrongdoing in court. In replying, Anders pointed to another exchange from the Senate Armed Services Committee that I had neglected:
Jeh Johnson’s response is just the latest example of the chaotic debate within the Obama Administration on the question of whether the detainees can continue to be held without charge. Shortly before Johnson had his exchange with Senator Martinez, the Justice Department witness David Kris flagged the Supreme Court’s opinion that detention authority under the nearly eight-year old AUMF [Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress in September 2001] “may run out.”. And in remarkable testimony, the Justice Department witness testified that the Constitution may apply to the military commissions–which raises the obvious question of whether the Justice Department also believes that the Constitution applies to people being imprisoned indefinitely without charge. It would be a ridiculous position to say that the Constitution applies when a person is put on trial, but not when that person sits in prison without trial–or after being found innocent at trial. It is time for the the Administration to state that it cannot or will not continue to hold the detainees indefinitely without charge.
I’m seeking some further clarity from the Defense Department about Johnson’s statement.