A little confused


Everyone's hailing Obama's decision to suspend all Guantanamo trials for 120 days.  But I thought the problem with Guantanamo was the people being held without trial.  Khalid Sheikh Muhammed was being tried by the UCMJ, which as far as I know, is what you're supposed to use on enemy combatants accused of war crimes.  Doesn't this just further prolong the incarceration of anyone who might be innocent?

Update:  I'm informed that KSM is not being tried by the UCMJ, though the major procedural objection is less that than that he's been tortured.

That is, of course, a major procedural, as well as a moral, objection.  But is Obama really going to let him go rather than use that evidence at trial?  That's a serious question.  The American public polls in opposition to torture--but I'm willing to bet that it polls in even more serious opposition to releasing confessed terrorists.  He must be hoping hard--as indeed we all are--that KSM decides to stick with the guilty plea.  As Mark Ambinder says, the current orders buy peace now by kicking the can down the road.

In general, I agree with Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg that the exclusionary rule is a terrible substitute for civil servant accountability--but that's what we've got.

The main question I raised in my post--whether delaying the trials isn't an issue--clearly is a big problem, at least for the defendants lawyers.  Or so says the Politico.

While Obama staffers may be hoping to conduct a more leisurely policy review, lawyers for some detainees are determined to move much faster in cases pressing for their clients' release. And already one federal judge on Wednesday ordered the government to explain its definition of "enemy combatant" within one week, a timeline which seems sharply at odds with Obama's planned review. "We'll vigorously oppose any delays in the habeas cases," a Chicago attorney representing several prisoners, Lowell Sachnoff, said yesterday. "If they said they could do it in a week, I'd give them a week, but I don't think they would ever say that." Sachnoff, who was in Washington to attend the inauguration, scoffed at Obama's recent pronouncement that closing Guantanamo will be "more complicated" than many had thought. "It's no more complicated or less complicated than it was many, many months ago," Sachnoff said.

Thanks to everyone who emailed, and sorry for the delay.  Unfortunately, this isn't my regular beat, and I was busy with the site launch.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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