Obama admin won’t label terror suspects as “enemy combatants”

Posted by: ST on March 14, 2009 at 10:08 am

… sounds like bad news, but it’s really not once you see a more full scope of what they’re doing:

The Obama administration said Friday that it would abandon the Bush administration’s term “enemy combatant” as it argues in court for the continued detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a move that seemed intended to symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies.

But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

The filing signaled that, as long as Guantánamo remains open, the new administration will aggressively defend its ability to hold some detainees there.

“The president has the authority to detain persons” who planned or aided the 2001 terrorist attacks as well as those “who were part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or Al Qaeda forces,” administration lawyers wrote.

The Obama administration said it was relying on existing principles of the international law of war. A public statement indicated that the government was moving away from claims of expansive executive power often used by the Bush administration to justify Guantánamo.

The new administration took pains to try to point out that it was taking a different approach. It said the new definition “does not rely on the president’s authority as commander in chief” beyond the powers authorized by Congress. The filing, in Federal District Court in Washington, was meant to provide a definition of those detainees who can be held and bitterly disappointed critics of Guantánamo, who said it seemed to continue the policies they have criticized for more than seven years.

It was the latest example of the Obama administration’s taking ownership of Guantánamo, even after having announced it would close the prison, where 241 men remain.

“This seems fundamentally consistent with the positions of the prior administration,” said Steven A. Engel, who was a senior lawyer responsible for detainee issues in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel until the final day of the Bush administration.

Mr. Engel added that the term “enemy combatant” was not the issue. “The important point is that they recognize that we can detain members of the enemy” during a war, he said.

Bbbbut you mean the Bush administration was right about a president’s authority to detain terror suspsects without criminal charges all this time?? I mean, we know this now because the administration that was going to undo all of Bush’s WOT policies that were supposedly so “harmful” to America’s reputation has almost completely reversed course on this issue …

Where’s the full-throated outrage?

Now, of course symbolism is everything to this administration, but in this instance, I don’t care. So they don’t want to call them “enemy combatants” – BFD. I’m glad the Obama admin has taken the position it has on a president’s authority to detain terror suspects without filing criminal charges, which shows in effect that they’re admitting the Bush administration was right on the issue all along, give or take a couple of points they might still disagree with them on.

Here’s more:

Some critics of Guantánamo said that Friday’s filing fitted a pattern of recent moves by the administration that seemed intended to undercut continued criticism of Guantánamo but did not make significant changes in detention policy.

They noted that after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. visited the detention camp last month, he proclaimed it “well run.” They said they had been stung as well by a Pentagon report commissioned by the new administration that said last month that the detention camp on the naval base at Guantánamo Bay meets the humane-treatment requirements of the Geneva conventions.


He’s clearly viewing the war on terror through a different set of eyes now – not those of an idealistic, starry-eyed junior US Senator who was a state Senator just four years ago, but now as both President and CinC. He’s acknowledging he was wrong, just not admitting it verbally – kind of like he’s done on the surge. Even though this is a clear flip flop, it’s one that most conservatives I suspect will get behind rather than criticize (unlike his flip flop on earmarks).

I wonder how many liberals who supported Obama thanks, in part, due to his promises to “change” and “reverse” Bush admin WOT policies will now view Obama, too, as a “war criminal” and “anti-Constitution” since there are several key positions the Obama admin has taken that virtually mirror Bush’s as it relates to the WOT?

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2 Responses to “Obama admin won’t label terror suspects as “enemy combatants””


  1. Carlos says:

    Shades of “1984” and “Animal Farm”. You could almost knock me over with a feather after reading this!

    Bunch of lying political hos. And unfortunately, 54% of the voters bought into his lying.

  2. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    [Obama has] acknowledging he was wrong, just not admitting it verbally – kind of like he’s done on the surge. Even though this is a clear flip flop, it’s one that most conservatives I suspect will get behind rather than criticize…..

    I believe that you are right, but why should conservatives give the Won a pass on this? The fact that the Won is keeping most of Bush’s policies in place (both economic and foreign) while continuing to publicly demonize his predecessor is a very bad sign. There is no reason to assume that the Obama administration – which is at best simply going through the motions of protecting national security – will enjoy the same level of success Bush has had in protecting the US against terrorist attacks while winning the war in Iraq. Bush tried to defeat the terrorists, and mostly succeeded. Obama, to the extent that He thinks at all about national security, merely wants not to look bad. There is a huge difference.

    When (not if) there is a major terrorist attack on US soil or a foreign policy disaster, the Obama administration will move to appease it’s genocidal (but financially rich) base by blaming Bush without doing anything at all to make things better. That’s Plan A, B, C, etc. Folks, there ain’t no other plan! Conservatives need to wake up to this fact.