Obama Drafts Order To Close Gitmo; Suspends Habeas Cases In DC Circuit

First off, President Obama has already drafted the order to close Gitmo, as he had promised. The AOL News is reporting:

The Obama administration is circulating a draft executive order that calls for closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year.

The draft order also would declare a halt to all trials currently under way at the facility, where roughly 800 detainees in the war on terror are held.

Word of the draft order comes on the same day that a judge granted Obama’s request to suspend the war crimes trial of a young Canadian in what may be the beginning of the end for the Bush administration’s system of trying alleged terrorists.
The judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, issued a written order for the 120-day continuance, without even holding a hearing on the question. Another judge was expected to rule later Wednesday on a similar motion to suspend the trial of five men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Secondly, as I explained in the last post, President Obama has moved to suspend tribunal proceedings at Gitmo, and the military panels have started entering the orders. As further evidence of the determination to immediately address, and bring a new sense of enlightened justice to, the detainees in Guantanamo, the Administration has imposed analogous continuance motions in pending Habeas cases in United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Specifically via a motion in Bostan v. Bush et. al, (DC Dist. 05-CV-00883), and a similar motion filed in Mohammon v. Bush et. al (DC Dist. 05-CV-02386), the Administration has moved to continue two hearings scheduled for this afternoon in respective Habeas Corpus cases.

The gist of the motions in both cases can be gleaned from the operative language in the Bostan case motion:

1. The Court previously scheduled a hearing on petitioners’ motions for expedited
judgment on the record for Wednesday, January 21, 2009, at 2:00 p.m. See, e.g., Bostan v.
Obama, No. 05-cv-0883, Order (Jan. 12, 2009, dkt. no. 109). The argument will involve issues
such as the appropriate nature and scope of the Executive’s detention authority during wartime.

2. Earlier today, Barack Obama assumed the office of the President of the United

3. The Government is now assessing how it will proceed in the above-captioned
Guantanamo Bay detainee habeas corpus cases. Time is needed to make that assessment and
determination. Accordingly, the Government Read more

President Obama Officially Halts GITMO Show Trials

President Obama has ordered an abrupt halt in the Gitmo Show Trials. From Peter Finn at the Washington Post:

In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.

The instruction came in a motion filed late Tuesday with a military court handling the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The motion called for "a continuance of the proceedings" until May 20 so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

In the legal field, this is known as an act taken "in the interests of justice". An incredibly welcome move by an administration literally only hours into its initial term. You have to hand it to President Obama, Guantanamo is a sensitive topic, especially with the neocon screechers, yet he proved the courage of his convictions and acted immediately upon being sworn in.

It appears that the action was foreshadowed at Camp Delta, as Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy already had reported, even before Obama was sworn in, that the trial of Omar Khadr had been put on hold:

A military judge on Tuesday postponed next week’s trial of Canadian captive Omar Khadr, easing pressure on the new occupant of the White House to make a swift decision on military commissions.

Until Tuesday, the Khadr case was shaping up to be an early test of Obama’s pledge to close the prison camps.

But Parrish’s indefinite delay — he set no new trial date — also derailed Pentagon plans to airlift a jury panel of U.S. military officers to this remote base this weekend.

The stay of all proceedings at Guantanamo for at least 120 days is, as stated, wonderful news; however, the better question is what it portends for the future disposition of the legal cases of the detainees including Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-defendants accused of organizing the 9/11 attacks.

Notably, the defense teams do not appear quite as thrilled as one might would expect by the move, citing fears that the government is simply trying to clean up the tribunal process minimally in order to continue on. Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, who represents Read more

Colin Powell Tees Off A Parting Shot At Bush & Cheney

Inauguration Day was not kind to the Bush/Cheney cabal (nor should it have been for that matter). The sheer enormity of the crowds on the Capitol Mall and in the streets of Washington DC was a powerful message on the joy of the new and the disdain of the old.

From the subtle pricks of President Obama’s words proclaiming an "end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics", to the massive crowd on the mall chanting and singing "Na-na-na-nah, hey, hey, goodbye" as Bush fled tail between his legs on Marine Executive One, it was really a fairly overt slap in the face to the banished cabal.

But, as Steve Benen points out, it’s pretty devastating when even you own men are blistering your backsides like former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell did with Bush/Cheney today. From an Interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric:

…Barack Obama’s election to the nation’s highest office a "reaffirmation of American principles values that will help us overcome some of the difficulties of recent years with respect to the attitude of the world toward us."

Speaking with CBS News Managing Editor Katie Couric, Powell said America’s prestige abroad has improved since Mr. Obama won a decisive victory over Senator John McCain.

"I think it has really, really been an remarkable event in terms of getting everybody to stand back and say, look at what we have seen here in America," Powell said. "The America we remember is back again."

Ouch. That’s a cold shot baby.

And, guess what, the cold shots were fired across the bow of Republicans in general today. From McClatchy:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans received a reception Tuesday that rivaled the frigid winter weather, as hundreds of attendees greeted GOP lawmakers with boos, chants, hisses and — in some cases — stony silence.

The chilly display toward McConnell, who was flanked by other high-ranking Republicans as he took the stage at President Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony, was a momentary break in the otherwise jubilant spirit of the day.

Well, what do you know, the people have it all figured out as to the degraded state of America and who is to blame; I wonder when the big media sources, their blathering heads and pin head pundits will catch on?

Marty Lederman Takes over John Yoo's Former Position

If you needed any further proof that things are different–very different–today, there’s this: Balkinization blogger Marty Lederman will take John Yoo’s former position, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for OLC.

As of today, the commencement of the Obama Administration, he begins work as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. There he will be joined by two of his former OLC colleagues, Dawn Johnsen, nominated to be head of the office; and David Barron, who will serve as the Principal Deputy (and as the Acting AAG while the Senate considers Dawn’s nomination).

We’ve replaced the guy who did Bush and Cheney’s evil bidding with a blogger-prof and Constitutional champion, Marty Lederman.

Welcome to a new day, America.

"A Much Better Party Than a Republican Party"

ew3.jpgI went to several parties last night–and missed a very popular MI party that attracted long lines down the street. But there was one party that was, clearly, the place to be.

I saw honorary FDL member Dan Froomkin, while waiting in line. I saw David Gregory, walking like a peacock with three ladies in tow. But Rachel Maddow attracted the real attention–and she is even more impressive in person than she is on teevee. There were congresspeople, big media types, movie and rock stars, and a pretty sizable group of bloggers, all packed into the Newseum together.

And over it all, hovered our gracious hostess: blogger, Arianna Huffington. 

The party to be at last night was the HuffPost Ball.

When Arianna spoke to thank everyone for coming, incidentally, we overheard two young TradMed types, asking who she was.

But the best line of the night came when a friend went over to Alex Castellanos–Republican pundit and former Mitt Romney staffer–to take this picture.  "You have to admit," said the friend to Castellanos. "This is a way better party than a Republican party. And you’ve really got to admit, this is WAY better than a Mormon party." And yes, Castellanos agreed.

The Bad Side of the Crowds

ewpic.jpgWell, I was supposed to be watching this from the standing ticketed section.

But instead, I’m watching from the safety of Jane’s house. Because it’s not safe everywhere on the mall.

Lisa hauled my sorry a$$ out of bed this morning at 5 AM to get down to the mall in good time. I headed for the section where people with our tickets were supposed to gather; I was just one block from the gates at 7 AM. For the first hour, people were giddy and friendly. By the second hour, people had become great friends.

But then things took a turn for the worst. It didn’t help that DC’s cops were pushing people aside to get their bikes (yes, bikes, with wall to wall people, preventing them from using them) through. It didn’t help that the cops seemed to have no idea where were supposed to go. It really didn’t help that they never appeared to open the gate–which was supposed to open at 8, or maybe 9.

And then people started to collapse. First an roughly eight year old boy. Then an older woman. Then another one. Each time, we’d yell for a doctor, try to open space, pass water to the people. The cops, still, didn’t help much. And then people tried to leave, creating giant waves of shoving people. Two kids followed their parents out, weeping. People couldn’t see the few wheel chairs in the crowd, which meant those family members near the wheel chairs were yelling, trying to protect their family members. 

I finally joined the crowds streaming out. We all streamed over one block, turned right, then reformed. And then it started again. 

Elsewhere on the mall, people were still jubilant. And safe. But there are pockets of weeping, dangerously disorganized crowds out there today.

Today IS The Day!

Today is the day. Now is the time. Change is in the air. Marcy is on the ground, we will update as she checks in. Consider this an open thread for anything you have to say. Spill your thoughts, emotions and hopes. Post any breaking news you see that I, and all of of us, might need to know.

I can just feel the difference already, can you?

Let’s get it on people!


Loo Hoo reminded me of Marie Roget. Although I knew her only from the blog, I loved Marie Roget. I know many others did as well. She was a self proclaimed "fire breathing progressive". She lived to see the day today, and tragically, was not able to complete the journey with us. Marie lives on through us today, and this video was one of her favorites. It is wonderful.

Coach Bush is 3-23 In Real Courts On Gitmo Show Trials; Katyal, The Hero Of Hamdan, To Join Obama Administration

If your local football coach was 3 wins and 23 losses for the season, you could rest assured of two things; one, you are a Detroit Lions fan and, two, the coach is getting fired. Well, there was an interesting little article that was published in today’s New York Times, and the upshot is that 3 and 23 is exactly what the Bush/Cheney regime’s record is when their Guantanamo Detainee cases see the sunshine of a real court. Clearly we have pretty much been endlessly detaining a lot of innocuous people on unsubstantiated evidence.

Describing the release last weekend of Haji Bismullah, an Afghan detainee held at Guantánamo Bay for nearly six years, the Times notes:

The decision was part of a pattern that has emerged in the closing chapter of the administration. In the last three months, at least 24 detainees have been declared improperly held by courts or a tribunal — or nearly 10 percent of the population at the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where about 245 men remain.

While Mr. Bismullah’s case was decided by a military panel, the rulings for the other 23 detainees occurred in habeas corpus hearings in federal court. Since a Supreme Court decision in June gave detainees the right to have their detentions reviewed by federal judges in habeas cases, the government has won only three of them.

Get that?? 3 and 23. Not. Real. Good. Certainly puts the lie to Cheney and Bush’s promises that they were holding only the "worst of the worst" after all these years doesn’t it?

The cases provide a snapshot of the intelligence collected by the government on the suspects and suggest that there was little credible evidence behind the decision to declare some of the men enemy combatants and to hold them indefinitely.

“The government’s failure in case after case after case to be able to prove its case calls into question everybody who is there,” said Susan Baker Manning, a lawyer for 17 Uighur detainees from western China who were ordered released by a federal judge in October. The Justice Department has appealed that order from a federal district judge, Ricardo M. Urbina, and the men are still at Guantánamo.

Well, I guess, as shocking as it is, this is not exactly breaking news anymore. The brittle patina of legitimacy and credibility, to the extent there ever was any, began to crack with the first major Read more

Obama, The Crawford Torture Admission & The Army Field Manual Lie


In an earlier post I discussed the startling direct admission that the United States tortures terror detainees made public in last Wednesday’s blockbuster Bob Woodward piece in the Washington Post. As the Bush Administration’s hand picked convening authority for the military tribunals, otherwise known as the "Gitmo Show Trials", Susan Crawford’s admission carries the binding mark of credibility.

In this post, I want to explain the troublesome ramifications Crawford’s admission carries for the provisions in the Army Field Manual regarding the treatment and interrogation of detainees. And the Army Field Manual is a singularly important frame of reference because President-Elect Barack Obama famously staked his claim to being a torture reformer during the election by promising to restrict US detainee interrogation techniques to those contained in the Army Field Manual. President-Elect Obama is holding true to his word.

The proposal Obama is considering would require all CIA interrogators to follow conduct outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the officials said.

However, Obama’s changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said.

This is where Susan Crawford’s stark admission comes into play. As Crawford admits, most all of the techniques used on al-Qahtani were actually permissible, but the layering of techniques compounded them into unmistakable torture.

Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani’s health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.

Crawford has exposed to bright sunlight the lie that is Barack Obama’s, and other politicians’, simple minded reliance on the Army Field Manual as cover for their torture reform credentials. Interrogators can stay completely within the Army manual and still be engaging in clear, unequivocal torture under national and international norms, laws and conventions. Read more

Coming Soon: The O'Bama Heritage Center


For some rather fun Friday news while we’re all awaiting the pardons that Bush will sneak into today’s news dump, mr. emptywheel’s home County Council has set aside the chunk of land where Obama’s Irish ancestors lived so they can make it into a tourist site (h/t squirt).

THE HOMESTEAD of US president-elect Barack Obama’s Irish ancestors has been withdrawn from sale with a view to being developed as a heritage centre.

The one-acre site in the centre of Moneygall is owned by Offaly County Council and was on the market for social housing for the last two years.

Mr Obama’s great-great-great grandfather on his mother’s side, Fulmouth Kearney, was born and grew up on the site before emigrating to the US in 1850.

Though Kearneys have not lived there for generations, the site was known until recently as “Kearney’s Gardens”.


“I would strongly oppose anything else going on that site. I think Offaly County Council should do something pretty soon. I’d hate to think that if Obama did decide to come to Moneygall we would have nothing ready for him.” [my emphasis]

Some people put out a glass of wine just in case Elijah happens to show up. The Irish make sure they’ve got a "heritage centre" ready in case Obama drops by. The Irish–never missing an opportunity to cater to American tourists!

Canon Stephen Neill, who discovered Mr Obama’s Irish connections, said Moneygall residents will be forming a committee after the inauguration to exploit the connection between the new president and the village.

“It has given an injection of interest in Moneygall and put us on the map. It is an opportunity which would be silly to pass by and, if it brings tourist revenue into the area, it would be good for the whole region,” he said.

The picture above, btw, is me and mr. ew–we beat the American tourist stampede to Moneygall by visiting last May. The plot of land in question is probably within view of that picture–trust me, there’s not much "centre" to Moneygall.