Attorney General Eric Holder is indicating that he is reluctant to examine detainee treatment under the Bush administration. This followed the publication of information about a 2007 International Red Cross report containing detainee interviews that claimed torture. Holder did say that he would be bound by "wherever the law and the facts take" the DOJ, noting once again that they do not want to criminalize policy differences. The DOJ has recently had discussions with European officials about taking some of the detainees. The AG reported that they are looking who and what method might be used to try other detainees, suspected of crimes. This comes from CQ Politics of 3/18.
The Obama administration's new definition of terrorists looks a lot like the old one, says Christopher Weaver, writing for ProPublica on 3/17. The administration is no longer using the phrase "war on terror" and now, "enemy combatant." In a detainee habeas corpus case, the DOJ did not substantially change the claim to hold suspected terrorists, as it is tied to the 2001 Congressional resolution known as the AUMF. New rules will still have to be adopted. To quote the article's conclusion:
The filing is littered with ambiguous phrases like "private armed groups" and a "novel type of armed conflict" instead of "enemy combatants" and the "war on terror." The scrapping of martial lingo backs away from the Bush-era argument that asserts the commander in chief's right to lead the military independently from Congress. However, in a press release the Justice Department explained that the latest definition still relies on the international laws of war as they apply to a 2001 congressional resolution that authorized the president to use military force.
"They're recognizing a right to detain," Madeline Morris, a Duke law professor who helped prepare a major brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of several detainees. "They're recognizing that that right is not governed by existing [laws of war]," in these cases, and that new rules will need to be articulated.
What they're not doing, so far, is showing their hand, our experts agree. "In every way, it's better than the old definition," said Mariner, the Human Rights Watch expert. "It's just not substantially different."
Several Republican senators are attempting to derail the nomination of Christopher Hill as the new Ambassador to Iraq, according to CQ Politics (3/17/09). Led by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), five senators sent a letter to President Obama urging the withdrawal of Hill's name from consideration. Brownback has also threatened to but a hold on the nomination. The others are Jon Kyle, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, James Inhofe and Christopher Bond.
Just exactly how to engage with Iran was the subject of a very interesting analysis by Adam Graham-Silverman of CQ Politics on 3/16. The headline points to a "just right approach." Dennis Ross is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's special adviser on the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia. In addition to Ross, Richard Haas, Senator Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, and Zbignew Brzezinski also weighed in with opinions. It is a good read. To quote further:
The administration’s review of U.S. policy toward Iran could be completed this week and will have to provide answers to some pressing questions, from what concessions and pressure the United States can bring to the table to what kind of Iranian nuclear program it can accept
In conclusion, here are a couple of excerpted paragraphs regarding the Middle East from my most recent CQ Behind the Lines newsletter by David C. Morrison:
Courts and rights: . . . another Post piece has the ACLU calling for an independent prosecutor to investigate CIA torture allegations. . . Old terror case files are being dusted off as the Obama administration considers prosecuting high-profile Guantanamo Bay detainees in civilian courts, focusing on pre-9/11 crimes, AP reports. . .
Over there: . . . “What failed in Iraq, fails in Afghanistan,” The Strategy Page flatly concludes — as The Long War Journal sees two Taliban leaders denying recent reports that their leader is in peace negotiations with the Afghan government. The White House is considering expanding strikes inside Pakistan against Taliban power centers beyond the tribal areas currently targeted, The New York Times reveals.
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
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