11.9.01

Obama on What to Do with Captured Suspects in War on Terror

In Civil Liberties, Guantanamo Bay, Rendition, Torture on March 9, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Obama’s policies on enemy combatants may not be as far from that of Bush as some would like:

Mr. Obama also left open the option for American operatives to capture terrorism suspects abroad even without the cooperation of a country where they were found. “There could be situations — and I emphasize ‘could be’ because we haven’t made a determination yet — where, let’s say that we have a well-known Al Qaeda operative that doesn’t surface very often, appears in a third country with whom we don’t have an extradition relationship or would not be willing to prosecute, but we think is a very dangerous person… I think we still have to think about how do we deal with that kind of scenario,” he added. The president went on to say that “we don’t torture” and that “we ultimately provide anybody that we’re detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus to answer to charges.”

Mr. Obama signaled that those on the left seeking a wholesale reversal of Mr. Bush’s detainee policy might be disappointed. Mr. Obama said that by the time he got into office, the Bush administration had taken “steps to correct certain policies and procedures after those first couple of years” after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Aides later said Mr. Obama did not mean to suggest that everybody held by American forces would be granted habeas corpus or the right to challenge their detention. In a court filing last month, the Obama administration agreed with the Bush administration position that 600 prisoners in a cavernous prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan have no right to seek their release in court.

Instead, aides said Mr. Obama’s comment referred only to a Supreme Court decision last year finding that prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to go to federal court to challenge their continued detention.

[for reversals of policy Obama] credited not Mr. Bush but the former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael V. Hayden and the former director of national intelligence Mike McConnell, who “really had America’s security interests in mind when they acted, and I think were mindful of American values and ideals.”

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