Within a day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, he has asked the military commissions judges to halt all trials in Guantanamo. All indications point toward detainees being tried in federal courts. This is a good decision for a couple of reasons.
First, the military commissions play into the propaganda game that terrorists thrive on. It confirms their message that normal courts can’t address the threat that they pose. In fact, the opposite is true. When you convict a terrorist and lock him up with murderers and rapists, you take away his freedom fighter mystique.
Second, the trial of Omar Khadr was about to start. Khadr fought alongside a band of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists and allegedly killed Special Forces medic Christopher Speer with a hand grenade. Khadr deserves to be locked up, and letting his military commission trial start would create a Double Jeopardy issue if we interrupt the proceedings somewhere down the road and move him to federal court.
President Obama is also circulating a draft order for the closing of detainee operations at Guantanamo. The memo sets a 12 month deadline for deciding whether to try, release, or continue holding each detainee. Good move.