Wednesday marks the tenth anniversary of the United States opening a detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The past decade has seen no shortage of controversy about the base, both on legal and moral terms. Barack Obama campaigned for president on the promise to close the base, but signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act on December 31, which includes a provision allowing indefinite military detention without trial. There are currently 171 prisoners being held there, and no signs of shutting the facility down in the near future.
The Obama administration made a bold decision in November 2009 that divided the country, which was still scarred by the events of September 11, 2001. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other detainees allegedly tied to the attacks, would be tried in a civilian court in New York City, just blocks away from where the Twin Towers stood. After battling Congress for over a year, Holder reversed his decision and announced yesterday those same men will now be tried before a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
After a two year ban, military trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees will resume, the Obama administration said on Monday. The administration said it remains committed to closing the controversial prison; this is the same pledge we've heard from the president dating back to his campaign over two years ago. However, his efforts to close the prison have been thwarted by Congressional opposition to bringing detainees on U.S. soil for trials. What are the implications for such an order for Obama and for the detainees?
A federal judge barred the use of a key witness for the government yesterday in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, currently being tried for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998.
The government acknowledges that the witness, Hussein Abebe, was identified by Ghailani while being interrogated – possibly tortured – in a secret CIA overseas prison, and as such, his testimony would be inadmissible.
The President had initially pledged to close Guantánamo Bay within a year of taking office, but the challenge of how to move the detainees and what to do with them once they've moved is becoming an increasingly complicated problem. We talk with Vijay Padmanabhan, a visiting professor at Cardozo School of Law, about how best to make progress on closing the detention center. Dafna Linzer, a senior reporter for ProPublica, is following the President's efforts to close Guantánamo and she joins us with the latest news.
The Justice Department recommended yesterday that Attorney General Eric Holder re-open and examine cases of alleged abuse of suspected al-Qaeda members. The abuse allegedly took place in secret CIA prisons during former President George W. Bush's administration. To go over the details, we have Vijay Padmanabhan, visiting assistant professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York City, and Mark Danner, author of the book “Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.”
Read the Inspector General's report on interrogations (via NYTimes)