Thursday, May 21, 2009

Remind me again what we were working for?


He taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago.

He said he would end torture, and then he did it.

He said he would close the prison camp at Guantanamo.

But now we have this: Not only has he pivoted on military commissions (motto: military justice is to justice as military music is to music) apparently Barack Obama is considering imposing a system of preventive detention on people the government doesn't like.

At a private, off-the-record with human rights advocates, Obama broached the topic of preventive detention.

The two participants, outsiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was intended to be off the record, said they left the meeting dismayed.

They said Mr. Obama told them he was thinking about “the long game” — how to establish a legal system that would endure for future presidents. He raised the issue of preventive detention himself, but made clear that he had not made a decision on it. Several senior White House officials did not respond to requests for comment on the outsiders’ accounts.

“He was almost ruminating over the need for statutory change to the laws so that we can deal with individuals who we can’t charge and detain,” one participant said. “We’ve known this is on the horizon for many years, but we were able to hold it off with George Bush. The idea that we might find ourselves fighting with the Obama administration over these powers is really stunning.”

Note: "individuals who we can't charge and detain" means people who haven't done anything, or we don't have evidence that they've done anything, or the case otherwise wouldn't stand up to scrutiny in court.

You'll remember that it was less than a year ago that the Supreme Court, in the case of Boumediene v. Bush, invalidated the Military Commissions Act because it abolishes the right of habeas corpus for military detainees. The new Obama initiative, if it ever comes to fruition, will have to have the same abolition of habeas corpus in order to enable the government to keep people it suspects of harboring lethal intent towards us. How will our Constitutional Law professor president square his desire to abolish habeas corpus with Boumediene, or, for that matter, with his oath of office?

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