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Obama creates indefinite detention system for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
A Periodic Review Board, composed of military, intelligence, Homeland Security, State and Justice Department officials, will consider each case. A detainee will have the right to appear before the board, introduce his own evidence and call witnesses "who are reasonably available," the order says.
Each detainee will receive a full review before officials every three years, and a paper review every six months.
But David Remes, a lawyer who represents 20 detainees, including 16 Yemenis, said he sees no substantive difference between the new system and the review process under the George W. Bush administration, just "a new cast of characters" sitting on review boards. In light of the current administration's decision not to release any Yemenis, even those cleared for repatriation, Remes questioned whether the new system will be valid.
"What good will this do for a Yemeni?" he said. The administration has said Yemen does not have the capacity to reintegrate and monitor any returned detainees.
Moreover, recent legislation now makes it extremely difficult to transfer any detainee out of Guantanamo Bay even if he is believed to be no threat, and it is unclear how the administration will confront that congressional barrier.
The administration said that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will issue an order rescinding the suspension of new military commission cases.
The administration is expected to charge three detainees: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Yemeni accused of planning the October 2000 al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors; Obaidullah, an Afghan accused of storing anti-tank mines; and Ahmed Darbi, a Saudi accused of planning an attack on a ship in the Strait of Hormuz that never took place.
But the case against Guantanamo Bay's most prominent detainee, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, remains in limbo. The administration had planned to Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and four co-defendants on trial in New York. But intense political and public opposition scuttled the prosecution and it is unclear where - or whether - Mohammed will be tried.
"Unfortunately, some in Congress have unwisely sought to undermine this process by imposing restrictions that challenge the Executive Branch's ability to bring to justice terrorists who seek to do Americans harm," Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement Monday. "We oppose those restrictions, and will continue to seek their repeal."
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.