Obama Continues Indefinite Detention of Terrorism Suspects
Bush-Hitler: Holding terrorists indefinitely without charge in Gitmo.
As Jacob Sullum notes in much more thorough post, it’s a natural consequence of the Obama administration’s continuing the Bush perspective that we’re at war with terrorists.
In Holder’s view, then, we are engaged in a war that started years before we noticed it and may never end, at least not in any definitive way. The enemy is not simply the guy who shoots at you on the battlefield, who can be readily identified; he can be anyone, anywhere who helps anti-American terrorists. He could be a guy captured in the Philippines suspected of funneling money to Al Qaeda, or (presumably) he could be the employee of an Islamic charity in the U.S. that is accused of sending money to Hezbollah. Given Holder’s invocation of cyber and mental battlefields, the enemy could even be someone accused of fomenting terrorism through incendiary online criticism of the U.S. government. The implication is that any of these people could be held in military custody without trial until the cessation of hostilities, i.e., indefinitely.
This was entirely predictable and, indeed, predicted by several of us here at OTB and by other analysts. Being president is a hell of a lot different than being a candidate for president. No administration is going to simply release possible terrorists and take the resultant risk.
The key problem with the Bush policy wasn’t detention but rather the lack of even a modicum of due process. So long as the Obama administration comes up with a way to let suspects put forth evidence that they’re not who we think they are, we’ll have moved forward. Sullum isn’t happy:
Such suspects need not even be tried by military tribunals; they could simply be identified as “unlawful enemy combatants” through a process that is yet to be determined but that will certainly be much less rigorous than a full-blown trial. What will be the basis for deciding which suspects get full due process and which get something far less, which receive determinate prison sentences and which are held indefinitely? If the option is available, it will always be tempting to take the easier route, which could mean that every case related to terrorism will be militarized. Then anyone accused of aiding terrorism can forget about justice as it is usually understood.
So long as we treat terrorism as a national security problem rather than a criminal justice problem, no one should expect different.