From my daughter: I’ve been reading about the new bill that was passed by the senate, what does it mean exactly? How is it different than what we have now? What does it mean for Guantanamo, Anything? My Answer:
1. Both Bush and Obama have claimed the right to kill and capture alleged terrorists anywhere in the world or hold them in military detention indefinitely—ie Guantanamo.
In their view the world is a battlefield—not just Afghanistan and Iraq.
Their claim is that alleged terrorists –at least those related to al Qaeda, Taliban and associated forces (whatever that means) are at war with the United States and that the US can make war on them which includes capturing them and holding them forever without trial—no matter where they are: Yemen, Somalia, United Kingdom, South America or anywhere.
The determination of whom to capture and/or kill is made by the President without any court.
Bush and Obama have always claimed that US citizens can be so treated as well—so that is why under Obama we saw the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen—al-alwaki.
Both Presidents have also acted as if they can kill and capture alleged terrorists that have no relationship to 9/11—the new law confirms this practice.
2. CCR and I have always asserted that the attack on the World Trade Center was a criminal act and that the people allegedly involved in that act or other similar acts against the US at other places in the world should be treated as alleged criminals, arrested, and tried in regular courts. And we think we are right on the law—especially international law.
Unfortunately, CCR’s position is not the position of Obama or the courts in the US—and we have mostly lost on this issue—that is one reason Guantanamo and the polices that underlie it are still there and will be for a long time.
3. What the legislation does is make what have been the practices of Bush and Obama into law—prior to this legislation, it was more or less what the presidents did—but without congress passing a law.
So in that sense the legislation does not make worse many of the bad practices of Bush and Obama—but it does make it harder to change back because now congress is behind it. Of course it’s bad for that reason but the real blame here is on Bush and Obama.
4. Many of those writing about the legislation are upset that it may require the President to put US citizens captured in the US into military custody—the legislation does not do that—but it does not prohibit the president from doing so. In fact Bush did that in a case called Padilla. —he is an American citizen who got off a plane in Chicago and was allegedly going to commit an act of terrorism. He was put into military custody and only given a trial to avoid a Supreme Court ruling on whether holding him in military custody without trial was constitutional.
Conclusion: Obama already broke his promise on closing Guantanamo; he has gone along with most of the Bush policies regarding Guantanamo and the “war on terror:” indefinite detention, military trials etc. This law gives a congressional imprimatur to what he has been doing—and requires him to jump through some more hoops to get people out of Guantanamo. However Obama had already made it almost impossible to close Guantanamo and impossible to end the practices which underlie it—as he supports those policies: this law makes it a bit harder.