Last week, House Democrats on the Appropriations Committee inserted a codicil into next year’s spending plan to prohibit federal funds to be used for the purpose of transferring detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the US for any purpose during FY2011. Whether this came as a slap from progressives angered over Barack Obama’s tax deal or from moderates angered at the response from progressives to it, the move certainly caught the attention of the White House. Eric Holder decried it as an unprecedented intrusion on executive authority and demanded its removal, apparently unaware of the Constitution and the House’s “power of the purse” to check the executive branch’s overreach.
Now the Senate has followed suit and included the same ban in its version of FY2011 funding:
The Senate is moving to block President Barack Obama from transferring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States.
An unreleased draft of a bill expected to pass this month essentially puts a nine-month hold on Guantanamo transfers. That includes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, who had been slotted for trial in New York before Obama bowed to political resistance and blocked the Justice Department’s plans.
The AP can’t resist adding an editorial comment at the end:
It already looked as if, in the decade after 9/11, no one would face trial for the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The Senate bill would make that a near certainty.
That decision has nothing to do with this defunding of detainee transfers. Congress has repeatedly authorized military commissions to adjudicate the 9/11 terrorists as well as other detainees captured abroad by military and intelligence assets during a time of war. This not only follows the precedents set over the entirety of our national history, it provides more safeguards and routes of appeal than we have allowed in any other commission system. Even the Obama administration apparently agrees, as it is processing some of Gitmo’s detainees through that system.
That seems to be one of the reasons that Congress is now stripping the executive branch of funds to move detainees to federal courts. The Obama administration has acted in defiance of multiple efforts by Congress — including a Democratic-led Congress — to establish the military commissions as the court of jurisdiction for terrorists captured outside the US by military and intelligence units. Elected officials from both parties have objected to trying these terrorists in federal court, especially in New York, where Denocrats like Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo both demanded that Obama cancel the trial in Manhattan. On top of that, Holder’s DoJ suffered an embarrassing verdict in the Ahmed Ghailani trial in which the terrorist defendant won acquittals on all but one conspiracy charge after the presiding judge barred an important witness due to Ghailani’s interrogation by intelligence assets.
It seems we have reached consensus on the notion of civilian-court trials for Gitmo detainees — and the Obama White House is outside of it.