The Obama Administration’s Very Grudging Admission

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 4, 2011

On the same day that Barack Obama announced his re-election campaign–you know, the one that promises us four more years of Hope and Change–we see that once again, the Obama Administration has been forced to admit that when it comes to the trial of terrorist suspects, the Bush Administration knew what it was doing:

The Obama administration admitted defeat in its efforts to prosecute the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks before a civilian jury in New York City, announcing that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others would be tried by a military commission at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision, announced Monday by Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., marks a sharp political setback for President Obama, who had repeatedly pledged to use civilian courts to try “high-value” terrorism suspects. It also creates fresh uncertainty about the legal road ahead for senior Al Qaeda suspects now in custody.

A federal judge in Manhattan promptly dismissed a sealed grand jury indictment from December 2009 against Mohammed and the four others pending transfer of the case to the military tribunal. The existence of the 10-count, 81-page federal indictment against the five men was not previously known.

Several hours later, Navy Capt. John Murphy, chief prosecutor in the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions, announced that charges would be filed “in the near future” to try the case at Guantanamo. Mohammed and his codefendants are among about 170 detainees at the military prison there.

“I intend to recommend the charges be sent to a military commission for a joint trial,” Murphy said, adding that his office already was preparing its case.

No reminders are needed that for the longest time, Democrats castigated the Bush Administration for relying on the prison at Guantanamo Bay to house terrorist suspects, and for relying on military commissions to conduct any and all trials. No reminders are needed that back in 2008, Senator Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay, pledged to hold civilian trials for terrorist suspects, and pledged to roll back the scope of executive power embraced by the Bush Administration. And no reminders are needed that the Obama Administration has now fully embraced the Bush Administration’s notion of executive power–going above and beyond it when it comes to conducting the war in Libya–has kept the prison at Guantanamo Bay open, has embraced the concept of indefinite detention promulgated by the Bush Administration, and has come to the realization that military commissions are the best way to try terrorist suspects.

If this isn’t still more vindication for Donald Rumsfeld, I don’t know what is.

  • Guest

    Excuse me? The Bush administration did not know what it was doing. Through a series of fumbles and foibles, legal missteps, human rights abuses, and other deeds I’m not sure I want to know about, ANY succeeding administration was left with no choice than to perpetuate these kangaroo courts.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      I like how any time the Obama Administration does something its fans don’t like, the Bush Administration is somehow to blame. Next, we will be told that Dick Cheney is responsible for the detention conditions of Bradley Manning.

      This Administration has had over two years to change Bush Administration lawfare policies. It has failed to do so, because it keeps realizing that the policies Senator Obama denounced, actually end up looking much better when Bush Administration opponents end up going to the White House, and end up grappling with the issues that the Bush Administration grappled with. I suppose that the Obama Administration feels that it can continue Bush Administration lawfare policies because it will always have a loyal retinue of followers willing to concoct silly excuses with no evidence, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t note that Hope and Change is a fraud and a half.

      Word of advice: If you want to claim that the Bush Administration committed certain deeds, don’t follow by claiming that you don’t want to know what those deeds are. Making that latter claim implies that as things stand, you don’t know what those Bush Administration deeds are, which necessarily means that you can’t claim that the deeds took place to begin with.

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