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Don't Replace the Old Guantánamo With a New One

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December 9, 2008

As yesterday’s proceedings at Guantánamo make headlines once again, reminding the world of the chaos-ridden military tribunals, Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, and project attorney Ben Wizner offer commentary on the question of what to do if and when the prison at Gitmo is finally closed.

“Don’t replace the old Guantánamo with a new one” appears on Salon.com today and discusses the emerging narrative in Washington think-tank circles that Congress should enact a law that would authorize the president to imprison alleged terrorists without charge or trial in the U.S. — essentially opening a new Gitmo here at home.

Among their arguments, they point out that “[w]hat underlies the consensus is the theory that our criminal justice system is unequal to the task of detaining terrorists in a dangerous world,” and argue that U.S. has captured and successfully prosecute terrorism suspects in the past — before and after 9/11. In other words, federal laws and procedures already exist to deal with sensitive national security information — there is no need to create an entire new legal system.

In closing, they state:

How an Obama administration chooses to tackle these issues will determine, in large part, the legal legacy of the last eight years. Even the clearest renunciation of torture will be an empty gesture if we simultaneously construct a new detention regime meant to permit prosecutors to rely on torture’s fruits. That our justice system prohibits the imprisonment of human beings on the basis of evidence that was beaten, burned, frozen or drowned out of them is evidence of its strength, not its weakness. It is why we call it a ‘justice system’ in the first place.”

Read the full article here.

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