Saturday, March 7, 2009

NIMBY Politics and Guantanamo Bay Detainees

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration may transfer some Guantanamo Bay Detainees to federal prisons in New York and Virginia to stand trial for acts of terrorism. The plan would undoubtedly set off very passionate NIMBY ("not in my back yard") politics. In the past, however, the United States has prosecuted terrorism suspects in New York and Virginia, and some of those individuals are currently serving sentences at a high security prison in Colorado.

Federal officials from Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA, Department of Justice, and the Department of State will review files of the remaining 241 Guantanamo Bay detainees. The review process will determine "whether to prosecute inmates in federal court, transfer them home or to third countries, or possibly resettle some of them in the United States."

Human Rights Groups Will Probably Get a "Mixed Bag"
Human rights groups have insisted that individuals detained in the war against terrorism receive access to ordinary civilian courts. They have challenged the use of military courts and indefinite detention of suspects.

While members of the Obama administration have expressed a preference for using federal courts when possible, they have not eliminated the possibility of creating "a new system of detention for cases where there is not enough evidence to prosecute someone in the regular courts, but the suspect is deemed too dangerous to release." "A new system of detention" is a vague concept, but it does not sound like an idea that complies with the demands for justice that human rights groups have made with respect to Guantanamo Bay.


Critical Thinker said...

Prosecuting them in civilian courts is problematic as you probably already know. Due to the OpSec requirements of certain cases names of witnesses could not be released, certain information necessary for national security could not be used, even events related to military operations might have to be sequestered. Full disclosure of evidence is the largest problem I see in this situation. This brings up the the situation, can you prosecute a civilian trial fairly?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

CT -- I am not sure how I missed this. I guess I would agree that it is "problematic." I have not made up my mind on whether it should be done or not.

I think it's safe to say that international law and US Constitutional permit the use of military tribunals. The question still remains: "is that a good idea?" I guess the middle ground on these issues (military stuff is one place I continue to find middle ground) would involve use of military courts on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the type of evidence and the perceived level of danger the defendant presents.

I was living in NYC during the 1990s terrorism cases. At one point, I was even a federal judicial clerk in the same courthouse where the trials took place. It was amazing for the court. I never even thought of things in terms of danger - although security at the court was EXTREME!

The SCOTUS blog (admittedly liberal - but VERY fair-minded) has some materials arguing for civilian courts. I have only looked at a few of them. You may want to take a look as well: Essay cites many links

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