So how's President Obama's detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress -- that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham -- are "ongoing" about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with. There's also a sense that the chance to build a political consensus around a sustainable, humane and transparent detention policy is gone -- and that the longer we don't hear from the president, the easier it is for Republicans to demagogue the issue. Here's an update on the raw numbers:
There are about 35 detainees who are deemed to be triable, either using the military tribunals that the Obama administration endorsed (hastily, they will admit, in retrospect) or in federal courts. Congress and the executive branch haven't agreed on how this will work, and the courts are getting frustrated.
Then there's the 50 or so detainees considered "law of war" detainees by the administration; these are the Category Five detainees whom the government doesn't want to release. Hugely controversial; Obama doesn't want to codify indefinite detention into law but might have to in order to close Gitmo. Not the sort of debate he wants to have before the midterms.