Gates Suggestion Would Move Guantánamo Onshore

May 1, 2009 12:00 am

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Indefinite Detention Is Unconstitutional, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested in congressional testimony Thursday that as many as 100 Guantánamo detainees could be transferred to U.S. soil and held without trial.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

“President Obama’s initial decision to close Guantánamo will be betrayed if we simply replace it with another detention center on U.S. soil that disregards the law. In George Bush’s America, we held individuals without charge or trial, and if President Obama follows suit it will be a fatal flaw that would surely mar his presidency. The only way to uphold the Constitution and due process is to either criminally charge Guantánamo detainees and prosecute them in federal courts or, where no legitimate evidence exists against them, let them go. America’s federal courts are well-equipped to accommodate the government’s national security interests without compromising the fundamental rights of criminal defendants.

“The Obama administration must reject the myth that there exists a class of people who cannot be prosecuted but are too dangerous to release. The federal government has an imposing arsenal of prosecutorial weapons at its disposal including broad material support and conspiracy laws. If prosecutors cannot meet the minimal burdens of proof under such statutes, there is no justification for holding a suspect indefinitely. One would hope that if the government is convinced of a prisoner’s guilt or potential danger, the government would have gathered sufficient admissible evidence by now to prove its case from untainted sources.

“The fact that the American justice system prohibits imprisonment on the basis of evidence coerced through torture is one of its strengths, not a weakness. The U.S. should not be in the business of locking people up without due process or jerry-rigging a new detention system to accommodate the torture policies of the Bush administration. Any effort to develop a new legal regime for holding individuals without charge or trials would doom the Obama administration to the same failure that George Bush encountered in his eight years as president.”

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