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Obama's new Gitmo policy is a lot like Bush's old policy

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It was another important moment in the education of Barack Obama.

He began his presidency with a pledge to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year. Within months, he realized that was impossible. And now he has essentially formalized George W. Bush's detention policy.

With Monday's announcement that the Obama administration would resume military tribunals at Gitmo, conservatives rushed out triumphant I-told-you-sos. Liberal supporters again felt betrayed. Administration officials had some 'splainin to do.

And so they assembled some top-notch lawyers from across the executive branch and held a conference call Monday afternoon with reporters. The ground rules required that the officials not be identified, which was appropriate given their Orwellian assignment. They were to argue that Obama's new detention policy is perfectly consistent with his old detention policy.

Not only had he revoked his pledge to close Gitmo within a year, but he also had contradicted his claim that a detention policy "can't be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone." His executive order did exactly what he said must not be done, in a style favored by his predecessor in the Oval Office.

"This detention without trial - what's different from the Bush administration?" a French reporter from Le Monde asked on the call.

Good question. The answer, from the Anonymous Lawyers, was technical: "We have a much more thorough process here of representation. . . . There's an opportunity for an oral presentation to the board."

CBS's Jan Crawford was not impressed with this answer. "What specifically is different in this than what we were living under that was so bad in the Bush administration?" she asked.

Anonymous Lawyers replied that cases would be reviewed every six months instead of every year. They also spoke about their "intent to comply with Article 75 of Additional Protocol One."

This still wasn't working for Yochi Dreazen of National Journal. "It seems like what is happening now with this executive order is effectively ratifying the status quo," he said. "Is that a fair read?"

The Anonymous Lawyers did not think this was a fair read. Over and over again, they repeated their theme: "The basic message is the National Archives speech remains the framework under which Guantanamo closure is being done."

Oh? Let's review.


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