President Obama today signed an executive order that will formalize the indefinite extralegal detention of terror suspects without charges as a permanent aspect of American life, while announcing that he intends to use this on detainees “who continue to pose a significant threat to national security” but against whom there is insufficient evidence to actually charge them with any crime.
The move came as the administration also ended a two year halt on new military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, allowing the administration to avoid actual real courts and instead use stacked military tribunals in those cases where they have at least some evidence and feel comfortable with proceding to something resembling a trial.
But this will likely be the exception rather than the rule, and the administration seems likely to pursue even tribunals unless it is confident of success, and the executive order will allow them to be selective in even attempting to charge detainees, in that it is no longer at all essential to keeping them in prison for the rest of their lives.
In 2009 President Obama had expressed discomfort with the notion of keeping people in prison for life without charges, but even then was seen as probably doing so, which indeed he now has.
Officials still, incredibly, insist President Obama hopes to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, a promise that he made as soon as he took office but has not mentioned in quite some time. Today’s moves, to the contrary, seem to be assuring that this closure will never happen.