Obama Wants Indefinite Detention Power

Once again, President Obama is adopting a policy of the Bush administration that Candidate Obama ran against. This time, it’s indefinite detention.   Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn for WaPo:

Obama administration officials, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, are crafting language for an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that an order, which would bypass Congress, could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.

After months of internal debate over how to close the military facility in Cuba, White House officials are increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may be impossible. Several officials said there is concern in the White House that the administration may not be able to close the prison by the president’s January deadline.

Change we can believe in.

It should be noted that “A White House official” disputes this report, saying, “There is no draft executive order. The task force has not finished its work on these issues.” But this has been bubbling up long enough that it’s at very least a major trial balloon.

Interestingly, the Obama campaign website, now renamed “Organizing for America,” has finally taken down the old detailing of issue positions that was still there a week or so ago. My guess is that they got tired of people comparing their actions in office to their campaign rhetoric.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

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  2. Mike says:

    empty promise after empty promise – i am starting to see a pattern here.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war.

    The SCOTUS already said the President has indefinite detention power under the laws of war. Obama’s power is not to exercise that power if he so chooses.

  4. Eric Florack says:

    Gee. I wonder if anyone predicted this?

  5. Eric says:

    empty promise after empty promise – i am starting to see a pattern here.

    Well, I wouldn’t say that Obama has broken more promises than any other politician. However, in my opinion the promises he’s breaking are vitally important ones, like indefinite detention/prolonged detention. Seems to me these are unlawful positions no matter what you call them.

    The SCOTUS already said the President has indefinite detention power under the laws of war.

    Is this exactly true, P.D.? I thought the Al-Marri case ruled more or less otherwise? At a minimum, isn’t the exact status of such power still in judicial limbo?

  6. Eric says:

    Gee. I wonder if anyone predicted this?

    Don’t gloat, Bitsy. Once the power was asserted by the Executive, it was going to be an uphill battle no matter who was in office. Obama just was a better bet than McCain for repudiating them. The reality is simply that branches of government rarely give back power out of the goodness of their hearts. They must be compelled.

    That said, it is extremely disappointing to see these particularly disgraceful policies seemingly being upheld by the Obama administration.

  7. Eric Florack says:

    Don’t gloat, Bitsy.

    Yes, by all means, let’s not call attention to Obama being caught in a predictable lie.

    Once the power was asserted by the Executive, it was going to be an uphill battle no matter who was in office.

    Asserted when? Under FDR, for example?

    That said, it is extremely disappointing to see these particularly disgraceful policies seemingly being upheld by the Obama administration.

    No, it’s not. Indeed; what we have here is the screaming Liberal rhetoric running square into the face of reality, and reality winning. Given that in most other of Obama as endeavors the outstanding question is whether not he can perceive reality at all, this can be considered nothing other than a bright spot in an otherwise abysmal performance record.

  8. How does Obama continuing a particular Bush policy constitute vindication? Given both parties believe in an unaccountable all-powerful State, it’s quite possible for both to be wrong.

  9. Eric says:

    Yes, by all means, let’s not call attention to Obama being caught in a predictable lie.

    Your misrepresenting what I stated. By all means, point out the inconsistencies–but you’ve no reason to act like you were so very prescient, when pretty much everyone else understood the immediate danger such policy positions posed from the get-go.

    Asserted when? Under FDR, for example?

    Stay on topic. FDR’s internment policy is not germane here. Besides, it’s widely considered a black mark on his record.

    No, it’s not. Indeed; what we have here is the screaming Liberal rhetoric running square into the face of reality, and reality winning.

    Yeah, those liberals whining about unlawfulness and injustice. What a bunch of pussies. Real men torture without regret. That’s the “real” reality, right Bitsy?

    Given that in most other of Obama as endeavors the outstanding question is whether not he can perceive reality at all, this can be considered nothing other than a bright spot in an otherwise abysmal performance record.

    It’s only an outstanding question if you’re a wingnut–which means by definition you’re outside reality. Interesting, though, that Obama’s been in office only six months and his record is already, quote, “abysmal.” I’m glad I’m not your kid, Bitsy; no one could ever live up to your apparently high standards.

  10. Eric Florack says:

    Your misrepresenting what I stated. By all means, point out the inconsistencies–but you’ve no reason to act like you were so very prescient, when pretty much everyone else understood the immediate danger such policy positions posed from the get-go.

    It’s you who misunderstands the point of my response. I claim no spectacular abilities of prediction. Indeed, that I have an average abilities in that area is exactly the point; this stuff was eminently predictable, all of the rhetoric from the left not withstanding. The difference, here, is that I am not blinded by the cult of personality that Obama has managed to build up around himself, nor am I blind it to react by Liberal rhetoric. It would certainly explain the amount of resistance I got when I first made those predictions six months ago.

    Stay on topic. FDR’s internment policy is not germane here. Besides, it’s widely considered a black mark on his record.

    It most certainly is, because it falls directly under the same rights as bush and now Obama are claiming. Every president since the time of Washington has had those rights.

    Yeah, those liberals whining about unlawfulness and injustice. What a bunch of pussies. Real men torture without regret. That’s the “real” reality, right Bitsy?

    That’s the reality of war. War, in the end, is the absence of rules. You either get used to that, or prepare to lose. At which point, of course, they get to make the rules.

    Yes, the record is abysmal. Anybody who succeeds and unloading multiple trillions of dollars on programs that don’t work inside of the first six weeks of this presidency, is a failure. It’s only gotten worse, from there.

  11. Eric says:

    … this stuff was eminently predictable, all of the rhetoric from the left not withstanding. The difference, here, is that I am not blinded by the cult of personality that Obama has managed to build up around himself, nor am I blind it to react by Liberal rhetoric. It would certainly explain the amount of resistance I got when I first made those predictions six months ago.

    I don’t think it’s clear at all that Obama’s current position on the issue at hand was “eminently predictable.” Many civil liberties groups and, indeed, judges in cases before the Judiciary, have expressed surprise and disappointment over Obama’s stances. No, Bitsy, if anything, your “prediction” was nothing more than luck based on your obvious antipathy toward anything liberal and your Limbaughian want-the-President-to fail attitude.

    It most certainly is, because it falls directly under the same rights as bush and now Obama are claiming. Every president since the time of Washington has had those rights.

    Please provide appropriate links to authoritative sources for such assertions of fact. I find it an odd claim that George Washington would have asserted powers of indefinite detention, considering that was the very thing we were fighting against in the Revolutionary War; that we declared to be against in the Declaration of Independence; and, indeed, enshrined in our own Constitution in the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. I mean, all of those monarchical abuses were still fresh in everyone’s mind at the time. Seriously, Bitsy, have you even looked at the DoI or Constitution in lately?

    That’s the reality of war. War, in the end, is the absence of rules. You either get used to that, or prepare to lose. At which point, of course, they get to make the rules.

    I will leave it to others more informed in military matters to correct you here, Bitsy, suffice it to say that asserting there to be no rules of war would come as a surprise to just about every notable military leader in history. James, maybe you could weigh in here?

    Yes, the record is abysmal. Anybody who succeeds and unloading multiple trillions of dollars on programs that don’t work inside of the first six weeks of this presidency, is a failure. It’s only gotten worse, from there.

    Um… how do you know these programs don’t work? Have you even given these programs a chance to work? I mean, these aren’t the kinds of things that work overnight, right? I too have my doubts, Bitsy, but I think most would agree that you have to wait for more than 5 months to see the effects.

    As regards failure, how can anyone take you seriously when, if I recall correctly, you were already declaring Obama a failure within a week of his inauguration? Besides, G-Dub spent at least as much on an unnecessary war and tax cuts, but none of us heard a peep out of you then. When did you suddenly become interested in fiscal responsibility? Or was GWB just misunderstood?

  12. Eric Florack says:

    How does Obama continuing a particular Bush policy constitute vindication?

    Simple. Once exposed the reality of the situation he did exactly what he said bush shot and have done. That he’s changed direction suggests that even he thinks it was the right thing to do.

    I don’t think it’s clear at all that Obama’s current position on the issue at hand was “eminently predictable.” Many civil liberties groups and, indeed, judges in cases before the Judiciary, have expressed surprise and disappointment over Obama’s stances.

    True enough, they have. But look at the second half of that statement:

    The difference, here, is that I am not blinded by the cult of personality that Obama has managed to build up around himself, nor am I (blinded) to (reality) by Liberal rhetoric.

    Please provide appropriate links to authoritative sources for such assertions of fact.

    I suppose for the moment the three presidential claims to those powers … (actually, four, if you include Truman) provide enough proof for the purpose. All, and let’s not forget that that has yet to be successfully challenged in court of law .

    Um… how do you know these programs don’t work?

    We were told, that these programs were supposed to keep us at 8% or below in unemployment, and we’d have been out of this recession by now. If you look closely on notice where 10% and rising. Of course, he also told us that everyone would have a pink unicorn. FAIL.

    As regards failure, how can anyone take you seriously when, if I recall correctly, you were already declaring Obama a failure within a week of his inauguration?

    I correct. I was. I still am. I said at the time, the reason I’m calling him a failure is because he has picked programs and erections which are precisely and exactly the wrong way to go. I’m hardly the only one in this. History has proven us, and not Obama, correct.

    I will leave it to others more informed in military matters to correct you here, Bitsy, suffice it to say that asserting there to be no rules of war would come as a surprise to just about every notable military leader in history. James, maybe you could weigh in here?

    Would you care to cite me one instance where the “rules of engagement” has dictated by the Geneva convention have been followed by both sides? Barring that, my judgment stands.

  13. That he’s changed direction suggests that even he thinks it was the right thing to do.

    Given your constant claims that Obama is misguided with regards to foreign policy, the fact he is now taking the Bush position doesn’t vindicate that policy, it further impugns it.

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Seems to me these are unlawful positions no matter what you call them.

    Oh really? And here I thought you loved this position…shouldn’t these people be either tried and/or released? Or should they just be shot?

    …what we have here is the screaming Liberal rhetoric running square into the face of reality, and reality winning.

    You should be used to that…you know, like with Conservative rhetoric of shrinking government, cutting Cabinet departments, balanced budgets, etc. that had been fed to you by the likes of Reagan and both Bushes but which ran square into the face of reality…I notice reality won there too…

  15. Eric says:

    Oh really? And here I thought you loved this position…shouldn’t these people be either tried and/or released? Or should they just be shot?

    Hmm… maybe my writing got in the way of clarity. Sorry, IP.

    I don’t believe in indefinite or prolonged detention in any form, or creating special categories of combatant to skirt the Geneva Conventions or other traditional laws regarding war. These guys need to be tried in a lawful court with both substantive and procedural due process intact and not hobbled by Executive assertions to the contrary.

    Unlike the chickenshit rightwing nutties from the 101st Fighting Keyboarders that post here, I am supremely confident that the same legal system (or a system like that at Nuremburg) that has put the likes of Nazis, Charles Manson, and Ted Kaczynski away can handle the terrorist baddies.

  16. Grewgills says:

    That’s the reality of war. War, in the end, is the absence of rules.

    It seems more than a bit of a stretch to call for war powers without a declared war and for a conflict without end.

  17. Eric Florack says:

    Given your constant claims that Obama is misguided with regards to foreign policy, the fact he is now taking the Bush position doesn’t vindicate that policy, it further impugns it.

    He simply hasn’t been forced to accept reality in these others as he has been the war on terror. Of course, the military is part of that; regardless of his likes to dislikes, he’s got military people telling him what’s what , what is reality, and was fiction. In terms of economics, and his constant diving into social concerns were government has no place, he has yes men, telling him what he wants to hear.

    It seems more than a bit of a stretch to call for war powers without a declared war and for a conflict without end.

    Make no mistake about it, we are still engaged in a war. A war they declared. Even though, by sheer idiocy, we didn’t respond in kind. Instead, we tried to take it as a law enforcement problem.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    re: Eric June 27, 2009 16:43

    Excuse me, I mixed you up with the other Eric (forgive the horrid insult)…we agree that these people should either be tried or released…it is against American values to simply lock people up indefinitely, not that some who think they are so patriotic would agree…

    It seems more than a bit of a stretch to call for war powers without a declared war and for a conflict without end.

    Which is the number one reason that this Congress, as the one before it, had been an abysmal failure in living up to its Constitutional role…since WWII, presidents have used far more power in foreign affairs than they have the right to…

    Even though, by sheer idiocy, we didn’t respond in kind.

    Indeed, we invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11…quite stupid…

  19. davod says:

    Detention until the cessation of hostilities was the norm until the latest SCOTUS ruled otherwise.

    There has been much talk about where to house the remaining Guantanamo inmates. Some of those who agree we have the facilities in the USA suggest the Supermax prisons would be just the ticket.

    So we go from Guantanamo to an isolation cell 200 feet underground. Hardly the way to treat someone being held until the cessation of hostilities.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    “Detention until the cessation of hostilities” would appear sensible and reasonable under the circumstances of an actual declared war…but this silly “War On Terror”? When does that end? And how can it be a real “war” when Congress has not declared it? Or do presidents suddenly have some new power that wasn’t written in the Constitution…

  21. Michael says:

    Make no mistake about it, we are still engaged in a war. A war they declared. Even though, by sheer idiocy, we didn’t respond in kind.

    And what nation exactly would be be declaring war on?

  22. davod says:

    You actually need a nation to declare war? How provincial.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    How provincial.

    Indeed…makes ya wonder why more conservatives don’t seem to believe in such a thing…

  24. PD Shaw says:

    And what nation exactly would be be declaring war on?

    “the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

    Authorization to Use Military Force

  25. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Interested party. What part of UN Resolution 1441 escapes you? The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Just as Cap and Trade has nothing to do with global warming. Real science is based upon evidence, not computer modeling. There is no global warming. Seems Saddam Hussein (same last name as the President’s middle name) had some material he could not account for. Most of the worlds intel services believed he had a stockpile of WMD. The director of the U.S. CIA informed the President of the United States Saddam had WMD If you cannot believe your own top spy, who can you believe. Lastly, according to the rules of war, captured ununiformed enemy combatants can be executed post haste.

  26. Eric says:

    Interested party. What part of UN Resolution 1441 escapes you? The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Just as Cap and Trade has nothing to do with global warming. Real science is based upon evidence, not computer modeling. There is no global warming. Seems Saddam Hussein (same last name as the President’s middle name) had some material he could not account for. Most of the worlds intel services believed he had a stockpile of WMD. The director of the U.S. CIA informed the President of the United States Saddam had WMD If you cannot believe your own top spy, who can you believe. Lastly, according to the rules of war, captured ununiformed enemy combatants can be executed post haste.

    And there you have it, folks. You can always count on Zelsdorf to bring out Wingnut ideology in all its glory. I am, however, a little concerned that you’re slipping, Zelsy. I mean, you didn’t even bring up Obama’s birth certificate. Usually you’re at least good for that.

    Someday there’ll be an entire museum exhibit devoted Wingnuttia. (Chronologically, however, the exhibit would have to come before the Stone Age exhibit.)

  27. Michael says:

    Authorization to Use Military Force

    A declaration of war is a change in our political relationship with another state. The AUMF was a resource allocation, not a political declaration.

    We should have declared war on Afghanistan. We should have declared war on Iraq. We didn’t. Who then, are you (or Eric) proposing that we declare war on now?

  28. Eric Florack says:

    ou can always count on Zelsdorf to bring out Wingnut ideology in all its glory

    UN Resolution 1441 is wingnut ideology?
    Gee… I’ll have to notify the folks in Turtle Bay.

  29. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    If you think that is wing nut ideology, Eric you prove your ignorance of history. However, I suspect your ignorance knows no bounds. All I have to say to you is F**k off. Have your daddy instruct you on which direction is up.

  30. Eric says:

    UN Resolution 1441 is wingnut ideology?
    Gee… I’ll have to notify the folks in Turtle Bay.

    You did read his entire post, didn’t you, Bitsy? You did notice the disjointed rambling, right?

    If you think that is wing nut ideology, Eric you prove your ignorance of history. However, I suspect your ignorance knows no bounds. All I have to say to you is F**k off. Have your daddy instruct you on which direction is up.

    Seems I’ve hit a tender spot here. Usually happens when one requires two premises from the wingnut instead of his preferred one premise>conclusion form.

  31. anjin-san says:

    Indeed, we invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11…quite stupid…

    Well, a lot of Arabs died, and that make some folks feel as if we had done some book balancing for 9/11, even if the Arabs in this country did not have a damn thing to do with the attack on our country. A lot of armchair warriors got to watch us blow things up on TV, which no doubt made them feel a bit more like the real men who do the real fighting. Halliburton made a TON of money. To this day, some people think the Iraq war was just groovy.

  32. G.A.Phillips says:

    We should have declared war on Afghanistan. We should have declared war on Iraq. We didn’t. Who then, are you (or Eric) proposing that we declare war on now?

    we should have declared war on Jihad terrorist religious institutes and every nation that supports them. But instead we cut most of them slack, and look were we are now…..

    lol, UN resalutions are meaningless to those who support them being the only action we ever take.

    It’s because they like lots of tuff talk untill it’s time to back it up….

  33. Michael says:

    we should have declared war on Jihad terrorist religious institutes and every nation that supports them.

    We can’t change our political relationship with religious institutions because we never had a political relationship with them to begin with.

  34. davod says:

    “We can’t change our political relationship with religious institutions because we never had a political relationship with them to begin with.”

    Hillary Clinton Appoints Special Representative to Muslim Communities – Secretary of State’s web site 25 jun 2009.

  35. Michael says:

    Hillary Clinton Appoints Special Representative to Muslim Communities – Secretary of State’s web site 25 jun 2009.

    Yes, and we also have a “war” on drugs. Fancy names and titles aside, we don’t have any political relationship with “drugs” or “Muslim communities”.

  36. Eric Florack says:

    You did read his entire post, didn’t you, Bitsy? You did notice the disjointed rambling, right?

    What I noticed is that you ignored the point on 1441. Far from being disjointed, his comment there was spot on, and you ignored it.

  37. davod says:

    If radical Islamic jihadists declare war on us, do we have to recognize them as a state before we can declare war on them?

    Mind you, seeing as we now only recognize acts of man-made distasterists, I suppose it is a moot point.

  38. Michael says:

    If radical Islamic jihadists declare war on us, do we have to recognize them as a state before we can declare war on them?

    Essentially, yes, otherwise we can’t identify territory and resources as belonging to them.

  39. An Interested Party says:

    What part of UN Resolution 1441 escapes you?

    Certainly not this part, which seems to have escaped you…

    While some politicians have argued that the resolution could authorize war under certain circumstances, the representatives in the meeting were clear that this was not the case.

    Lastly, according to the rules of war, captured ununiformed enemy combatants can be executed post haste.

    Really, than why the need for Gitmo? Why not just execute everyone held there?

    we should have declared war on Jihad terrorist religious institutes and every nation that supports them.

    Even though it was one particular group that was behind 9/11? And to declare such a war would require a large number of soldiers…I assume you are ready to sign up…