By Tom Parker, Policy Director, (Counter) Terrorism and Human Rights
And the hits just keep coming. Despite its pledge to reintroduce greater transparency to government the Obama administration reversed itself again this week, announcing that it would now seek to block the release of detainee abuse photographs sought by the ACLU.
Then yesterday the CIA announced, in a fine example of Orwellian double-speak, that it would not release memos cited by former Vice-President Dick Cheney because they are subject to a Freedom of Information Act suit being pursued by Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU.
Amnesty does not often find itself on the same side of an argument as the former Vice President but on this occasion we welcome his late conversion to the merits of transparency in government.
And finally, the President confirmed today that his administration will reintroduce Military Commissions to try terrorism cases that cannot be successfully pursued in a federal court. Of course, he put it slightly differently but that is what the decision amounts to. Reverse engineering courts to work around mistakes and abuses that have been committed in the past is not a sound basis for any system of justice.
A comment to a previous posting accused me of being "a one note Johnny" on this subject and I am afraid the charge is quite true. I truly wish it wasn’t. I wish I could report that things were improving on the human rights front and that in confronting terrorism the President was living up to the pledges he had made on the campaign trail.
Instead, sadly political pragmatism seems to be the order of the day. This might be sound political sense but it is not moral leadership. So it is particularly ironic to note today that Lakhdar Boumediene, the Algerian national arrested in Bosnia and falsely accused of plotting to blow up the US Embassy in Sarajevo, is finally today en route to France where he will be resettled.
This innocent man spent eight years detained in Guantanamo. He has been cleared of all charges since November 2008. He is only being released now because France has generously agreed – despite the "freedom fries" and "axis of weasel" jibes - to take him in. One might think a few apologies might be in order. One might also think that Boumediene’s case might give pause for reflection before we head back down the path of backwoods justice once again.