« Ind. Decisions - "Women fired for race: Ruling says whites received far less punishment for far worse behavior" | Main | Courts - A look at potential Supreme Court nominees »

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Law - "President’s Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition "

William Glaberson has this lengthy and outstanding article today in the NY Times. Some quotes:

President Obama’s proposal for a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in “prolonged detention” inside the United States without trial would be a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free.

There are, to be sure, already some legal tools that allow for the detention of those who pose danger: quarantine laws as well as court precedents permitting the confinement of sexual predators and the dangerous mentally ill. Every day in America, people are denied bail and locked up because they are found to be a hazard to their communities, though they have yet to be convicted of anything.

Still, the concept of preventive detention is at the very boundary of American law, and legal experts say any new plan for the imprisonment of terrorism suspects without trial would seem inevitably bound for the Supreme Court.

Mr. Obama has so far provided few details of his proposed system beyond saying it would be subject to oversight by Congress and the courts. Whether it would be constitutional, several of the legal experts said in interviews, would most likely depend on the fairness of any such review procedures. * * *

Mr. Obama chose to call his proposal “prolonged detention,” which made it sound more reassuring than some of its more familiar names. In some countries, it is called “administrative detention,” a designation with a slightly totalitarian ring. Some of its proponents call it “indefinite detention,” which evokes the Bush administration’s position that Guantánamo detainees could be held until the end of the war on terror — perhaps for the rest of their lives — even if acquitted in war crimes trials.

Mr. Obama’s proposal was a sign of the sobering difficulties posed by the president’s plan to close the Guantánamo prison by January. The prolonged detention option is necessary, he said, because there may be some detainees who cannot be tried but who pose a security threat.

These, he said, are prisoners who in effect remain at war with the United States, even after some seven years at Guantánamo. He listed as examples detainees who received extensive explosives training from Al Qaeda, have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden or have otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 23, 2009 08:21 PM
Posted to General Law Related