Speaking tomorrow about the future of Guantanamo Bay detainees, President Obama won't say where he expects detainees convicted by courts or military tribunals will end up, his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said today. Instead of providing specifics, Obama will "frame" the issue, Gibbs said, and discuss how he'll reconcile the tension between liberty and security. Donning a professorial gown is risky at a time when Democrats and Republicans in Congress, along with the American people, wants details from the administration, particularly about whether dangerous detainees might be imprisoned in the United States. A U.S. official conceded this morning that some of them would end up in the United States, even as the federal law enforcement bureaucracy, in the name of FBI director Robert Mueller, worried openly about the ramifications.
Though administration officials are briefing allies on the speech tomorrow -- presumably, the allies can't figure out what the President means on their own -- they've decided to describe the speech in very broad terms. When the administration has faced communication challenges in the past, they've solved them by letting Obama explain himself before the American people. The problem now is that so many sentiments about terrorism and Guantanamo are unventilated, and the civil libertarian center-left is getting gloomy about Obama's commitment to fundamentally reorienting the role of the president after the perceived excesses of the Bush administration.