Obama lifts ban on Guantanamo trials
Updated 5:42 PM ET
WASHINGTON - President Obama is approving the resumption of military trials for detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ending a two-year ban.
Obama issued an executive order Monday establishing a process for continuing to hold detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will rescind his January 2009 ban against bringing new cases against the terror suspects at the detention facility.
It was the latest acknowledgment that the detention facility Mr. Obama had vowed to shut down within a year of taking office will remain open for some time to come. But even while announcing a resumption of military commission trials, Obama reaffirmed his support for trying terror suspects in U.S. federal courts something that's met vehement resistance on Capitol Hill.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Obama said the move would "broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees."
"From the beginning of my Administration, the United States has worked to bring terrorists to justice consistent with our commitment to protect the American people and uphold our values," he said. "Today, I am announcing several steps that broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees."
"I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system - including Article III Courts - to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened," Mr. Obama's statement continued. "Going forward, all branches of government have a responsibility to come together to forge a strong and durable approach to defend our nation and the values that define who we are as a nation."
The White House also reiterated that the administration remains committed to eventually closing Guantanamo Bay, though Monday's actions didn't seem to bring that outcome any closer.
Under Obama's order, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will rescind his January 2009 ban against bringing new cases against the terror suspects at the detention facility.
CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports that one of the first military trials is expected to be that of Abd al Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing 2000. Al Nashiri is one of three Guantanamo detainees to be waterboarded under the enhanced interrogation program put in place by the Bush Administration after the 9/11 attacks.
The president's order has no immediate effect on the potential trials of accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four 9/11 co-defendants, according to Orr. In November, 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the five al Qaeda prisoners to stand trial in New York. But, strong local opposition scuttled that plan, and Congress now has stopped the Obama Administration from proceeding with federal trials for Guantanamo prisoners.
Closure of the facility has become untenable because of questions about where terror suspects would be held. Lawmakers object to their transfer to U.S. federal courts, and Gates recently told lawmakers that it has become very difficult to release detainees to other countries because Congress has made that process more complicated.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck'' McKeon, R-Calif., said he was pleased with Mr. Obama's decision to restart the military commissions. But he said the administration must work with Congress to create a trial system that will stand up to judicial review.
A sweeping defense bill Mr. Obama signed in January blocked the use of Defense Department dollars to transfer Guantanamo suspects to U.S. soil for trial. The White House said Monday it would work to overturn that prohibition.
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