Filed under: Latino/Caribe, March Volume 2009, National | Tags: Beverly Eckert, USS Cole
Update: In a tragic incident a week after the event one of the widows in attendance at the White House forum died in a plane crash outside Buffalo, NY. According to a CNN transcript: “Beverly Eckert was one of the passengers on Flight 3407. Eckert’s husband, Shawn Rooney was killed on the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Eckert worked with the 9/11 commission as a part of the family steering committee. The Buffalo News reports Eckert was traveling to Buffalo for a celebration of what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday. She had also planned to take part in the presentation of a scholarship award she established in honor of her late husband.”
(IP)- The President met for an hour with approximately 40 family members of the victims of the attacks of September 11th and the attack on the USS Cole following criticism from members, and former members, of the military regarding the executive orders to close Guantanamo Bay and review the detention of those held there.
The President spent the majority of the time engaging the families in dialogue and answering questions from the people in attendance after apparently benign attempts to undercut public support for the President Obama’s stance regarding Guantanamo. Mr Obama made it abundantly clear that his most important responsibility is to keep the American people safe, and explained why he believes that closing Guantanamo will make the nation more secure as well as ensure that those who are guilty receive swift and certain justice within a legal framework that is durable.
Hamilton Peterson of Bethesda, who lost his father and stepmother on United Flight 93 told the Washington Post, “There was passion and emotion, but it was enormously respectful.” Mr. Peterson attended the conference, but still thinks Guantanamo Bay should be kept open. However, he noted, “I was extremely satisfied and impressed with his facility with the issues and his genuine commitment to take into consideration the views of family members who want to see Guantanamo rehabilitated, not dispensed with.”
The talks were needed as much as they were appreciated. Newsweek magazine reported “there have also been concerns that Bush administration holdovers were deliberately playing up the cases [regarding alleged terrorists] in recent weeks in an effort to undercut Obama.” One former senior U. S. counter-terrorism official told the magazine that information, regarding the return to Al Qaeda of a person who had been previously released from Guantanamo, was held by unnamed authorities until the day after the executive order was signed to close the prison camp.
This came after retired US Navy Commander Kurt Lippold spoke out against the executive orders, telling the UK Guardian, “We shouldn’t make policy decisions based on human rights and legal advocacy groups.” Mr. Lippold is the former commander of the USS Cole, aboard which Americans died in October 2000 as the result of an alleged suicide attack. “We should consider what is best for the American people, which is not to jeopardise those who are fighting the war on terror – or even more adversely impact the families who have already suffered losses as a result of the war,” Lippold told the Guardian.
The retired commander was responding to the decision of one of the judges at Guantanamo to reject the presidential order to halt the military commissions. US Army Colonel James Pohl issued an order stating: “On its face, the request to delay the arraignment is not reasonable. The public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay in the arraignment. Granting the continuance do [sic] not serve the interests of justice. The government request for a continuance in the arraignment until after 22 May 2009 is DENIED.”
While former Commander Lippold hailed the decision as “a victory for the 17 families of the sailors who lost their lives on the USS Cole over eight years ago,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quoted by the Federal News Service as saying, “Trust me that there will be no proceedings continuing, down at Gitmo, with military commissions.” “The bottom line is, we all work for the president of the United States in this chain of command, and he has signed an executive order which has made it abundantly clear that until these reviews are done all [legal activity at Guantanamo] is on hiatus,” Morrell said.
According to the executive order, federal agencies have 30 days from its signing to report back to the President that Guantanamo Bay complies with Article III of the Geneva Conventions which forbids in Section 1: “(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) Taking of hostages; (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; and (d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”
“I think the point was that you have to make sure they have a system in place that can actually work,” said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband, Alan Kleinberg, also died in the World Trade Center. “I think even the people who came to the meeting who wanted to keep it open could understand his point of view,” said when interviewed by the Washington Post following the group discussions with President Obama. The President vowed to keep the door of communication open with the family members of those struck down by the tragedies and the victims themselves.
STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
Amidst the great deal of speculation involved in the presidential orders to close Guantanamo Bay and review the status of its detainees, the Islamic Post is reprinting here the majority of the text of the order, which contains little ambiguity.
EXECUTIVE ORDER — REVIEW AND DISPOSITION OF INDIVIDUALS DETAINED AT THE GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE AND CLOSURE OF DETENTION FACILITIES
Sec2 (b) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have been there for more than 6 years, and most have been detained for at least 4 years. In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo and closure of the facilities in which they are detained would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice. Merely closing the facilities without promptly determining the appropriate disposition of the individuals detained would not adequately serve those interests. To the extent practicable, the prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals detained at Guantánamo should precede the closure of the detention facilities at Guantánamo.
(c) The individuals currently detained at Guantánamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Most of those individuals have filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal court challenging the lawfulness of their detention.
(d) It is in the interests of the United States that the executive branch undertake a prompt and thorough review of the factual and legal bases for the continued detention of all individuals currently held at Guantánamo, and of whether their continued detention is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and in the interests of justice. The unusual circumstances associated with detentions at Guantánamo require a comprehensive interagency review.
(f) Some individuals currently detained at Guantánamo may have committed offenses for which they should be prosecuted. It is in the interests of the United States to review whether and how any such individuals can and should be prosecuted.
(g) It is in the interests of the United States that the executive branch conduct a prompt and thorough review of the circumstances of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo who have been charged with offenses before military commissions pursuant to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109-366, as well as of the military commission process more generally.
Sec. 4. Immediate Review of All Guantánamo Detentions.
[...](c) Operation of Review. The duties of the Review participants shall include the following:
(1) Consolidation of Detainee Information. The Attorney General shall, to the extent reasonably practicable, and in coordination with the other Review participants, assemble all information in the possession of the Federal Government that pertains to any individual currently detained at Guantánamo
and that is relevant to determining the proper disposition of any such individual. All executive branch departments and agencies shall promptly comply with any request of the Attorney General to provide information in their possession or control pertaining to any such individual. The Attorney General may seek further information relevant to the Review from any source.
(2) Determination of Transfer. The Review shall determine, on a rolling basis and as promptly as possible with respect to the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo, whether it is possible to transfer or release the individuals consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and, if so, whether and how the Secretary of Defense may effect their transfer or release. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and, as appropriate, other Review participants shall work to effect promptly the release or transfer of all individuals for whom release or transfer is possible.
(3) Determination of Prosecution. In accordance with United States law, the cases of individuals detained at Guantánamo not approved for release or transfer shall be evaluated to determine whether the Federal Government should seek to prosecute the detained individuals for any offenses they may have committed, including whether it is feasible to prosecute such individuals before a court established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution, and the Review participants shall in turn take the necessary and appropriate steps based on such determinations.
(4) Determination of Other Disposition. With respect to any individuals currently detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under paragraphs (2) or (3) of this subsection, the Review shall select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals. The appropriate authorities shall promptly implement such dispositions.
(5) Consideration of Issues Relating to Transfer to the United States. The Review shall identify and consider legal, logistical, and security issues relating to the potential transfer of individuals currently detained at Guantánamo to facilities within the United States, and the Review participants shall work with the Congress on any legislation that may be appropriate.
Sec. 5. Diplomatic Efforts. The Secretary of State shall expeditiously pursue and direct such negotiations and diplomatic efforts with foreign governments as are necessary and appropriate to implement this order.
Sec. 6. Humane Standards of Confinement. No individual currently detained at Guantánamo shall be held in the custody or under the effective control of any officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or at a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, except in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of such confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Secretary of Defense shall immediately undertake a review of the conditions of detention at Guantánamo to ensure full compliance with this directive. Such review shall be completed within 30 days and any necessary corrections shall be implemented immediately thereafter.
Sec. 7. Military Commissions. The Secretary of Defense shall immediately take steps sufficient to ensure that during the pendency of the Review described in section 4 of this order, no charges are sworn, or referred to a military commission under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Rules for Military Commissions, and that all proceedings of such military commissions to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered, and all proceedings pending in the United States Court of Military Commission Review, are halted.