ACLU urges Obama to close Gitmo in second term

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on US President Barack Obama early on the morning after his re-election Nov. 7 to shut down the Guantánamo Bay military prison, even as it congratulated him on his victory. Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, urged Obama to “make good the promise he made four years ago to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay.” He also encouraged Obama to put an end to practices such as warrantless surveillance, drone strikes and indefinite detention:

We congratulate President Obama on his re-election. This is his opportunity to reaffirm our constitutional principles and the fundamental American values of due process, respect for the rule of law and individual freedom. It is a time to once again be a nation where we can be both safe and free.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama stated that closing the Guantánamo Bay military prison would be a priority for his first term. Shortly after he assumed office, Obama issued an executive order  for the closure of the site within one year. According to Jurist Forum contributor David Frakt, the Obama administration is not solely to blame for Guantánamo Bay remaining open. The US Congress has, since 2009, “passed a series of increasingly stringent spending restrictions which have made it virtually impossible to transfer most detainees out of Guantánamo.” Other scholars, including Forum contributor Jonathan Hafetz, have raised concerns about how the failure to close Guantánamo Bay “has helped justify the policies of arbitrary detention and torture that spurred its creation in the first place.”

From Jurist, Nov. 7. Used with permission.


  1. GAO: Gitmo detainees could be safely absorbed by US prisons
    US Senator Dianne Feinstein released a report (PDF) by the Government Accountability Office on Nov. 28 which asserts that US prisons could safely absorb the 166 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay military prison in the event the facility is closed and the detainees are brought to the US. The report identifies six Department of Defense (DoD) facilities and 98 Department of Justice (DoJ) facilities that could hold the detainees and points out that there are already 373 prisoners convicted of terrorism in facilities throughout the US. While the DoD asserts that it has the legal authority under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to maintain custody of the detainees, the DoJ does not consider itself to have such authority and would require additional statutory authority in order to do so. However, the DoJ maintains that it has the “correctional expertise to safely and securely house detainees with a history or nexus to terrorism.”

    Feinstein, who is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, commissioned the report in 2008 and welcomed its findings, stating that it “demonstrates that if the political will exists we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security.”

    From Jurist, Nov. 29. Used with permission.

  2. NSA collecting phone call data under secret court order
    Oh well, so much for putting an end to warrantless surveillance in his second term. Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian reveals that the National Security Agency is collecting call data from Verizon customers under a secret court order granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to the FBI in April, ostensibly for for a specified three-month period ending on July 19. Maybe thanks the outcry, it won’t be renewed. But we assume this kind of thing is going on. We’d be amazed if it weren’t. Digital technology makes it possible, and any realistic understanding of power relations therefore makes it an inevitability.

  3. Surveillance scandal gets deeper

    Greenwald further claims in The Guardian that the NSA "has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants" under a secret program called PRSIM. The Washington Post backs up the claims. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper defended the program and said there were errors in the reportage, although he failed to specify them.

  4. NSA whistleblower awaits fate in Hong Kong
    Greenwald in The Guardian reveals the source for the leaks about the PRISM program as one  Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee working as a contractor at the National Security Agency. Reuters informs us he currently holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong, and Booz Allen has confirmed his employment. He says he acted  to protect “basic liberties for people around the world.” The Washington Post revelas that he used the code-name “Verax” in his dealings with the media. It seems like he is destined to be the next Julian Assange. Let’s hope he isn’t as much of an asshole.

  5. Media inaccuracies on PRISM program?
    The Daily Banter calls out what it says are inaccuracies in coverage of the PRISM scandal, and asserts that the Washington Post changed the text of its original article to reflect assertions by Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. that the NSA did not have “direct access” (Greenwald’s phrase), but only that they were supplying the government with user data on a case-by-case basis, after legal vetting. 

    Whatever the actual facts may be, it still strikes us as utterly naive to think that the government will not have access to all this data, sooner or later and one way or another. It is simply in the nature of the technology to leave an indelible record of our every online move, and even if civil libertarians succeed in restraining the spooks for the moment, the threat will remain. The deeper problem is the digitization of every sphere of human reality, which continues at a breakneck pace. But we aren’t allowed to talk about that. That is accepted as inevitable, and then when its inevitable consequences are realized we’re all supposed to be “shocked! shocked!

  6. FBI Patriot Act records requests jump 1,000% under Obama

    The FBI’s use of a controversial Patriot Act provision to demand business records has skyrocketed more than 1,000 percent under President Barack Obama versus his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, according to a report by NBC News.

    The so-called business records provision of the Patriot Act, titled Section 215, is the justification used for the NSA’s massive PRISM intercept program that sucks up nearly all domestic communications and stores them for future reference. A single Section 215 order was behind last week’s revelation that Verizon is cooperating with the NSA and handing over millions of phone call records daily.

    Altogether, the FBI approached the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) court to approve business records requests 212 times in 2012, reporter Michael Isikoff learned. He notes that figure also represents a 1,000 percent increase from the number of requests filed just four years earlier by members of the Bush administration. (Raw Story, June 11)