Let's not get our panties all in a bunch. There's been a lot of talk about how the Obama administration is just a continuation of the Bush years, especially this last week with the reversal on releasing more detainee abuse photos (which I addressed earlier in the week) and now with President Obama's decision to continue military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees. But let's get one thing straight: Dubya and Dick aren't running things anymore.
Robert Gibbs: "...first and foremost the President of the United States is going to do what he believes is in the best security interests of the people of the United States.
I think military commissions have a long tradition in the United States. The President spoke in 2006 in his belief that military courts and commissions had a role to play in the detainees that were at Guantanamo Bay, but also spoke forcefully about the notion that the system that had been first set up and ruled unconstitutional, and then passed legislatively and largely ruled unconstitutional again by the Supreme Court, wasn’t working. And I think the best way to understand why it wasn’t working -- and when I say "wasn’t working," I mean, wasn’t working in seeking swift and certain justice for families of victims as well as the American people because in about eight years -- a little less than eight years’ time -- exactly three cases had gone through military commissions.
The President, as I said, during the debate said that properly structured military commissions had a role to play. The changes that he is seeking he believes will ensure the protections that are necessary for these to be conducted in order to reach that certain justice as well as live up to our values.
...statements that have been obtained from detainees using cruel, inhumane, and degrading interrogation methods will no longer be admitted as evidence at trial.
Second, the use of hearsay will be limited so that the burden will no longer be on the party who objects to hearsay to disprove its reliability.
Third, the accused will have greater latitude in selecting their counsel.
Fourth, basic protections will be provided for those who refuse to testify.
And fifth, military commission judges may establish the jurisdiction of their own courts.
Again, if you look back through the arc of this process beginning back in 2001 and 2002 through Supreme Court making decisions in 2005, moving this to the venue of Congress in 2006, and the legislation that the President supported that came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee with strong bipartisan support -- four Republican senators joining all the Democrats involved -- in passing legislation that the President believes met the goals of instituting swift and certain justice and the protections adequate enough to be reviewed by courts, and believes so."
Stating that this is simply a continuation of the Bush policies without noting the changes is being disingenuous.