The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Obama Administration Should Not Revive Military Commissions, Says ACLU

"Tweaking" The System Will Not Make It Constitutional


to The Wall Street Journal, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued
guidance to the Obama administration on reviving the military
commissions system to try Guantanamo detainees. The Journal reports
that the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel advised the administration that
detainees can claim some constitutional rights if they are tried in
military commissions within the United States.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"While the Justice Department is
correct that the Constitution must apply to trials of terrorism
suspects, it is gravely wrong to think that this can happen in the
context of revived military commissions. The commissions system is
inherently illegitimate, unconstitutional and incapable of delivering
outcomes we can trust. It is designed to ensure convictions, not
achieve justice.

"If the Obama administration truly
intended to try the detainees in a system that provides fundamental
rights and protections, it would do so within the tried-and-true
federal court system where both national security evidence and
fundamental rights can be protected. The only conceivable reason to
design an alternative legal system would be to evade due process
requirements. The proposed fixes to the Bush-era military commissions
are thoroughly insufficient; there is no such thing as 'due process
light.' If the Obama administration chooses to proceed with the
commissions, it will find itself mired down in the same morass of legal
challenges that the Bush administration did.

"It is also becoming increasingly
clear that Obama's 'cabinet of rivals' is devolving into intramural
squabbling - with the Defense Department trouncing and shooting down
the policy positions of the Justice Department. Pentagon officials who
object to affording detainees their full constitutional rights if they
are brought onto the U.S. mainland seem to be merely making a
behind-the-scenes play for keeping the military commissions in
operation at Guantanamo - hoping to force the president's hand into
breaking his clear promises in the executive orders he signed his first
day in office."

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666