The White House suggested Monday that it might not be able to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by next January as President Obama promised, an acknowledgment underscoring the difficulties in figuring out what to do with the men being held there.
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said the administration had made “significant progress” in fulfilling the president’s campaign pledge to shut the prison, which has been widely condemned around the world. But he played down the importance of meeting Mr. Obama’s self-imposed deadline of Jan. 22.
“We’re not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won’t be met on a particular day,” Mr. Gibbs said at his daily briefing for reporters. “We’re focused on ensuring that the facility is closed and doing all that has to be done between now and the 22nd of January to make the most progress that we can that’s possible.” [continued…]
President Obama’s decision not to go to Congress for help in establishing reasonable standards for the continued detention of Guantanamo detainees is a failure of leadership in the project of putting American law on a sound basis for a long-term confrontation with terrorism. It is bad for the country, for national security and for civil liberties. It represents a virtually wholesale adoption of the failed policies of his predecessor — who, with equal obtuseness, refused to root American detention practices in clear law approved by the legislature and similarly failed to learn from repeated Supreme Court rebukes to this unilateral approach. It violates Obama’s much-noted statement this spring that he would “work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.” And it delegates a profound and difficult policymaking exercise to the judiciary and, ultimately, to a single man on the Supreme Court.
The only point in Obama’s defense is that few political actors have given him reason to think he would have responsible partners if he did the right thing. Human rights and civil liberties activists are so keen to avoid legitimizing detention in legislation that they have treated as a victory the president’s decision to adopt the very policy they have spent the past eight years denouncing.
Congress is not looking statesmanlike either. Republicans have been too busy making political hay out of Obama’s sputtering closure of Guantanamo to act as constructive participants in this important legislative project. Democrats, always afraid of their shadows on national security issues, have hidden behind civil liberties platitudes that most do not really believe. Members across the spectrum have acted boldly only when it comes to making sure that no Guantanamo detainees end up in their districts. [continued…]