Courts Give Obama Administration Some Leeway to Figure Out Gitmo Trials
The Obama Administration caught a break from two courts yesterday, both of which decided to give the president more time to figure out how he wants to proceed with trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The trial by Military Commission of five high-profile detainees accused of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was to begin soon. Two of those men, however, had filed broad constitutional challenges to the military court system at Gitmo in domestic federal courts.
On Monday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order delaying its ruling on those challenges until the military judge at Gitmo had responded to the government's request to postpone the beginning of trial for a third time. The D.C. Circuit stated in the order that it would accept new filings from the parties based on the military judge's ruling, and would then consider the defendants' pleas.
The military judge ended up granting the administration's request for a 60-day stay in the case, which gave the administration some much-needed breathing room as it wrestles with the question of just how to handle the Gitmo situation. So far, Congress has struggled to articulate acceptable standards for the military courts, and the Obama administration is vacillating between proceeding with the Commissions as they currently stand, or shifting the trials to domestic federal courts.
Neither option is particularly attractive for Obama, which probably explains why he has already frozen the courts' activities for four months on two separate occasions prior to yesterday's ruling.