White House counsel Gregory Craig told administration allies on a conference call that the prime reason why Guantanamo detainees would be tried by military commissions is that regular federal courts "are for violations of criminal law" and military courts "are for violations of the rules of war," according to a participant.

If that's the case, then the administration has one question, really, to answer: "What specific problems are there with the UCMJ that requires Obama to go outside of the system on hearsay evidence?"

The White House will not answer that question on, or off the record. 

Craig also told the allies that no military trial would begin until Congress approved changes to existing law, which leaves open the possibility that Congress will countermand the administrative rule change on hearsay evidence.

The rationale seems to be: the last administration broke the law in the way that it detained these people. This administration needs to change the law in order to clean up that mess.

A White House official said that Obama will discuss his thinking about Guantanamo detentions next week.

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