Obama Administration Will Not Seek Indefinite Detention Legislation

September 24, 2009 12:00 am

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Government Should End Unconstitutional Detention Policy Altogether

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NEW YORK – News reports today indicate that the Obama administration will not seek legislation or issue an executive order to institute a system of indefinite detention without charge or trial. According to the reports, the administration backed away from seeking legislation because it believes the federal government already has the power to detain terrorism suspects indefinitely under the congressional resolution passed after 9/11 authorizing the president to use force against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly urges the Obama administration to reject any system of detention without charge or trial.

Currently, the United States government continues to hold people indefinitely at Guantánamo and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan without charging them or bringing them to trial.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

“While the Obama administration is wise not to seek legislation or issue an executive order that would formalize an unconstitutional system of indefinite detention, it remains deeply troubling that the administration continues to maintain a de facto system in which detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial.

“Locking people up indefinitely without charge or trial violates our most fundamental laws and values. The American justice system demands that we don’t simply imprison people when they are suspected of a crime; we try them in a court of law where real justice can be achieved without compromising fundamental rights. If credible evidence exists, the government should press charges and prosecute suspects in our tried-and-true criminal justice system, which has a proven track record of successfully trying terrorism cases.

“It is important to keep in mind that even with today’s development, what we are left with is a continuation of the misguided detention policy of the Bush administration.”

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

“The White House should be commended for not seeking additional detention authority from Congress, but we remain very concerned with its continued assertion that it has the power to hold people indefinitely without charge. Allowing Congress to craft and create a new detention law would have likely resulted in disastrous legislation and, in the long run, would have cemented into law the unconstitutional practice of holding prisoners without charge or trial. With this assurance that the administration will not support new detention authority legislation from Congress, attention can now shift to the White House and the courts to ensure these two branches understand that upholding American values means terrorism suspects should be charged and tried in court, and not simply held indefinitely without charge or trial.”

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