As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, March 13, 2009

RIP Enemy Combatant

I'm not thrilled with everything the President is doing from a civil liberties standpoint. In many respects he is continuing policies put in place by George W. Bush, or at least shielded those policies from scrutiny. But I'd give a thumbs up to this unwinding of the most extreme actions undertaken by the executive over the past eight years.

In a filing today with the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice submitted a new standard for the government's authority to hold detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. The definition does not rely on the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief independent of Congress's specific authorization. It draws on the international laws of war to inform the statutory authority conferred by Congress. It provides that individuals who supported al Qaeda or the Taliban are detainable only if the support was substantial. And it does not employ the phrase "enemy combatant."

The Department also submitted a declaration by Attorney General Eric Holder stating that, under executive orders issued by President Obama, the government is undertaking an interagency review of detention policy for individuals captured in armed conflicts or counterterrorism operations as well as a review of the status of each detainee held at Guantanamo. The outcome of those reviews may lead to further refinements of the government's position as it develops a comprehensive policy.

"As we work towards developing a new policy to govern detainees, it is essential that we operate in a manner that strengthens our national security, is consistent with our values, and is governed by law," said Attorney General Holder. "The change we've made today meets each of those standards and will make our nation stronger."

The government is still basing its authority to hold detainees at Guantanamo on the 2001 AUMF (which should be repealed or at least clarified), but they do appear to be following the international laws of war, and this filing is but a way-station to the eventual closing of Guantanamo. Of course, there's still the question of Bagram, and about how we're going to deal with those who tortured in our name. But we are seeing a gradual shift. I'd like it to be more acute, but at this point, I'll take it.

...I have to admit to have grossly misread the initial information on this story. I will revisit it tomorrow. This is not change.

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