Friday, September 25, 2009

Gitmo Deadline Slips, State Secrets Policy Advances

Other than as a publicity stunt, is there any logical or security based reason why administration wants to shut down the Gitmo prison?

The Washington Post, one of the administration's many house organs, concedes that the January 2010 deadline might have been overly ambitious:
With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is working to recover from missteps that have put officials behind schedule and left them struggling to win the cooperation of Congress.
Even before the inauguration, President Obama's top advisers settled on a course of action they were counseled against: announcing that they would close the facility within one year. Today, officials are acknowledging that they will be hard-pressed to meet that goal.
The White House has faltered in part because of the legal, political and diplomatic complexities involved in determining what to do with more than 200 terrorism suspects at the prison. But senior advisers privately acknowledge not devising a concrete plan for where to move the detainees and mishandling Congress.
Not to worry: As always in these matters, the Bush administration at fault--although, amazingly enough, only partially this time:
Senior administration officials said the central roadblock during those early months was the condition of the detainee files, which had been left in disarray by the previous administration.
The administration kind of likes its predecessor's "state secrets" policy, however, although it seems that it wants to have it both ways. From the Washington Times:
Liberals and conservatives alike harshly criticized a new Obama administration policy designed to make it harder for the government to hamper lawsuits against it by invoking a "state secret" claim, and even the support from privacy-rights groups was tepid and cautious.
From one side, civil-liberties advocate and best-selling author Glenn Greenwald called the new policy merely cosmetic and a continuation of "the very Bush/Cheney policies" that President Obama criticized. From the other, Sept. 11 families activist Debra Burlingame said even those changes would encourage jihadist lawsuits and chill counterterrorism operations
Such privacy-advocacy groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center said the new rules looked good, but said the Obama administration still needed to deliver concrete results - by dropping its support for several Bush-era invocations of the privilege in court and by pushing through Congress a permanent law on the matter.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration appeared to vindicate such longstanding liberal criticisms by invoking the state-secret privilege to urge U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker to toss a 2004 warrantless-wiretapping lawsuit filed by the Ashland, Ore., branch of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation.
Justice Department lawyer Anthony Coppolino made the same arguments at Wednesday's hearing in San Francisco that Bush administration lawyers had: "Foreign intelligence surveillance is so vital to national security that it is important for the government to maintain secrecy," he argued.
Does this sound like the type of word games that Edwin Howard Armstrong warned about?
The new policy, announced Wednesday, gives the attorney general the sole authority to invoke a "state secret" claim, which allows the government to exclude evidence it says will compromise national security. The new rules, which take effect Oct. 1, also set a higher standard to make that claim, saying that revealing the information would need to pose "the risk of significant harm to national security"; the previous standard, set by the Supreme Court, allowed a claim when there was a risk of "reasonable possibility of harm" to national security. 

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