Blog of Rights

ACLU Lens: New Executive Order Institutionalizes Indefinite Detention at Guantánamo

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:17pm

Yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order that institutionalizes the ongoing indefinite detention of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay. As ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero told the Washington Post, "It is virtually impossible to imagine how one closes Guantánamo in light of this executive order."

Furthermore, the Obama Administration reversed its January 2009 decision to stop bringing new military commission charges against Guantánamo detainees and announced that new trials will resume shortly. According to media reports, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is suspected of planning the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, is likely to be among the first detainees charged in new commission proceedings. The ACLU's Denny LeBoeuf blogged recently of al-Nashiri's treatment:

The usual problems of the military commissions will arise in al-Nashiri's case. The admission of coerced testimony will be an issue. Since Attorney General Holder announced in 2009 that al-Nashiri would not be tried in federal court, there has been speculation that the government was afraid of the weakness of its evidence. And looming over it all will be the question of al-Nashiri's well-documented torture, and the extraordinary efforts by the government to hide the details of that torture.

U.S. officials waterboarded al-Nashiri. They bent him over backwards in a stress position until one of his interrogators worried that his arms would become dislocated. He was naked, hooded, shackled, and deprived of sleep. His "debriefers" blew smoke in his face, stood on his ankle shackles, and scrubbed his naked body with a stiff wire brush. His torturers hung him from the ceiling by his arms, while they were tied behind his back. And if these medieval torments were not enough to render a subsequent capital trial problematic, his torturers also revved a power drill next to his naked, hooded body. And racked a handgun near his head. "Once or twice".

In a statement in response to the Obama administration's announcements yesterday, Anthony said:

"The best way to get America out of the Guantánamo morass is to use the most effective and reliable tool we have: our criminal justice system. Instead, the Obama administration has done just the opposite and chosen to institutionalize unlawful indefinite detention – creating a troubling 'new normal' – and to revive the illegitimate Guantánamo military commissions."

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