Less than twelve hours after assuming office, President Obama has ordered Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to order prosecutors to seek a 120-day halt of the trials at Gitmo. At about 11 p.m., Keith Olbermann reported that Reuters had the story.
This story was posted on the website of the Canadian Press at about the same time:
The new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has verbally ordered the prosecution to seek a 120-day adjournment in war-crimes cases at Guantanamo Bay.
A commissions spokesman says the order was made through Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. The prosecution has filed a motion with the military commission in the case of Canadian Omar Khadr and those of the men accused of plotting the 9-11 attacks.
For all those involved in the tribunal system, created in 2006 by Congress to try those held in Guantanamo under different rules than in US courts, the arrival of Obama as the new US president represents more than just a new commander-in-chief.
Obama's aides have told US media in recent weeks that the new president will order the closure of the Guantanamo camp and the extraordinary tribunals, or commissions, as one of his first acts after being sworn in on Tuesday.
Speculation is raging at the remote naval base on the southeastern tip of Cuba over how much longer the tribunals will operate and when Obama might scrap them with a stroke of a pen.
Subsequently, Reuters reported this:
On the orders of new U.S. President Barack Obama, prosecutors in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals asked military judges on Tuesday to halt pending cases for 120 days, a trial source said.
Tribunal judges were expected to rule on the request on Wednesday, the source said.
And, just around midnight, the Washington Post posted this on their website:
In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day halt of legal proceedings involving detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.
The instruction came in a motion filed late Tuesday with a military court handling the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The motion called for "a continuance of the proceedings" until May 20 so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."
The BBC is also reporting the story: here.
A breath of air breathed into our Constitution. Glorious news.
From an editorial in The New York Times on Sunday:
That is the real nature of Mr. Bush’s grotesque legacy: abuse and torture at an outlaw prison where hundreds of men — many of whom did nothing — have been held for years without real evidence or charges. And truly dangerous men were treated so badly that it may be impossible to bring them to justice.
Entendez! Le Monde
mcjoan notes, quite correctly, the following:
He's not ordered the trials be halted, but ordered military prosecutors to request that of the judges. The judges can refuse the request. This doesn't necessarily mean the trials pending this week won't go forward, or that military commission trials are finished.
And I agree. I would also note, however, that this "request" came from the Commander in Chief and POTUS, so I will assume that those reviewing the request will take that into account. Nevertheless, I am grateful for mcjoan's cautionary comment.
Thank you, President Obama!