Give the Obama administration credit for being quick studies in at least one area. For the second successive week, the White House has leaked their plans on a Friday night to restart military commissions for Gitmo detainees rather than their original stated plan of using federal courts to try them like normal criminals. This time, they’ve spread the love to the Washington Post after giving the New York Times first crack at the story, but it’s almost exactly the same, right down to the money quote:
The Obama administration is preparing to revive the system of military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under new rules that would offer terrorism suspects greater legal protections, government officials said.
The rules would block the use of evidence obtained from coercive interrogations, tighten the admissibility of hearsay testimony and allow detainees greater freedom to choose their attorneys, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The military commissions have allowed the trial of terrorism suspects in a setting that favors the government and protects classified information, but they were sharply criticized during the administration of President George W. Bush. “By any measure, our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure,” then-candidate Barack Obama said in June 2008. …
The Obama administration’s plan to reinstate the commissions with modifications reflects the fear that some cases would fail in federal courts or in standard military legal settings.
“It looks a lot more difficult now than it did on Jan. 20,” said one government official.
Hmm. In the NYT story, the quote was:
“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”
Seems like Barack Obama has some trouble saying, “We goofed,” or at least trouble saying it during a normal news cycle.
In fact, the White House is still looking to spin this. One of the changes under consideration is moving the commissions to the US rather than holding them at Gitmo. What possible difference would that make? The military commissions will still get run by the military. Holding them into the US would make them into media circuses and bring terrorists into the US, entirely to give Obama some PR cover on keeping the commission system in place — the same commission system authorized by Congress, twice.
Maybe this week, a few members of the White House press corps will ask about this, rather than let it slide after the weekend news cycle.