The White House is considering endorsing a law that would allow the indefinite detention of some terrorist suspects without trial as part of efforts to break a logjam with Congress over President Barack Obama‘s plans to close the Guantánamo Bay prison, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Feb. 15.
Last summer, White House officials said they had ruled out seeking a “preventive detention” law, saying the administration would hold any Guantánamo detainees brought to the US under civil criminal law or under “law of war” principles permitting detention of enemy combatants. However, speaking at a news conference in Greenville, SC, Graham said the White House now seems open to a statute laying out standards for open-ended imprisonment of those alleged to be members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
“We’re beginning to look at the idea we need to change our laws, come up with better guidance” for judges handling cases involving enemy combatants, Graham said. “I’ve been talking to the administration for the last couple of days. I’m encouraged that we’re going to sit down and do some of the hard things we haven’t done as a nation after Sept. 11.” (Politico, Feb. 15)
The White House is also reviewing a plan that would require the Justice Department and FBI to consult with the intelligence community before deciding whether to inform terrorism suspects arrested in the US that they have the right to remain silent and to consult with an attorney, according to a Feb. 13 story in the Washington Post.
Senior administration officials said the proposed change in policy is the result of a review ordered by President Obama following a controversy over the handling of accused “Christmas bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was read his so-called “Miranda” legal rights 10 hours after his arrest.
“We are analyzing lessons learned (in the case) with the goal of ensuring full information from across the government is available to law enforcement personnel on the ground as they conduct interrogations and make decisions on how to handle terrorist suspects,” the paper quoted a senior administration official as saying.
“The final decision about Miranda and other law enforcement decisions will continue to lie with the FBI and the Justice Department,” added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for not consulting with intelligence agencies before FBI agents read Abdulmutallab his rights, saying the decision cost the US valuable intelligence. (Reuters, Feb. 13)