Back to News & Commentary

The "Cancer of Guantánamo"

Share This Page
May 22, 2009

In the wake of President Obama’s national security speech yesterday and implications of his proposed tweaked military commissions and so-called “preventive detention” system, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald features a podcast discussion with ACLU’s National Security Project attorney Ben Wizner.

It’s important to acknowledge that the Obama administration has been dumped with what Ben describes as “the cancer of Guantánamo,” but it’s equally important to recognize that, rhetoric aside, President Obama yesterday essentially proposed making permanent some of the worst features of the Gitmo regime. Even Jack Goldsmith, who served as Assistant Attorney General under the Bush administration recently wrote, “The main difference between the Obama and Bush administrations [national security policies] concerns not the substance of terrorism policy, but rather its packaging.” Even more concerning, President Obama’s comments yesterday suggested that he intends to institutionalize these policies through Congress. It is absolutely essential to consider the facts, and potential long-term consequences of such a scenario.

In the his conversation with Glenn, and in an article co-authored with National Security Project director Jameel Jaffer entitled “Don’t replace the old Guantánamo with a new one,” Ben asserts that our existing justice system is perfectly well equipped to handle terrorism cases, and provides prosecutors with an imposing range of tools to try suspected terrorists. These tools, including overly broad “material support” statutes that criminalize association with designated terrorists groups, make it difficult to imagine that there exists a certain class of people who are too dangerous to release, but too difficult to prosecute in our federal courts.

It’s worth heading over to Salon for a listen and a read.

Here’s another way to think about it, as Ben stated: “If people weren’t comfortable with Bush having this power, then they shouldn’t be comfortable with Obama having this power, because he won’t be President forever.”