Obama's Record: Indefinite Detention

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 Preventive Detention

The Obama administration not only missed its own deadline to close Guantánamo by January 22, 2010, but it chose that day to declare that it would continue to indefinitely hold nearly 50 men without charge or trial, claiming that they are too dangerous to release but “unprosecutable” because officials fear trials could compromise intelligence-gathering and because detainees could challenge evidence obtained through coercion. What the Obama administration continues to obscure is that evidence obtained through torture or coercion is both illegal and unreliable, and has no place in a court of law. Federal judges have ruled in 34 out of 47 habeas cases over the last two years that the government had no evidence to justify the detention of men at Guantánamo.

Law enforcement experts have long known that the best way to obtain reliable intelligence from suspected criminals after arrest is to give them an attorney and a trial. The Obama administration is continuing to play on public fears to argue otherwise for political ends and to maintain the expansive detention powers it inherited from the Bush administration. Indefinite detention is the central problem with the prison at Guantánamo; it is an assault on our most fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law.

The Obama administration is trying to bring the Guantánamo system of indefinite detention without charge or trial to the United States by attempting to purchase a prison in Illinois—the Thomson Correctional Center—to imprison the nearly 50 men at Guantánamo slated for indefinite detention, those slated to be tried by military commissions, and perhaps those it has failed to repatriate or resettle. CCR opposes the purchase of this facility or of any other prison for these purposes, and has, along with other human rights and legal organizations, submitted a memo to the U.S. Senate and Congress opposing any legislation authorizing or appropriating federal funds for the purchase of Thomson Correctional Center unless Congress enacts a permanent ban on using the prison for indefinitely detaining persons without charge or trial, holding persons during military commission trials, or for serving sentences imposed by military commissions. If used for these purposes, the purchase of the prison would result in institutionalizing policies that should be ended immediately, and would instead expand this illegal system into the United States.

There is currently no-one held without charge or trial in the United States. If the Obama administration succeeds in bringing indefinite detentions to U.S. soil, it will be difficult to hold the line at the 50-80 men detained at Guantánamo and slated for transfer. This proposal lays the groundwork for U.S. prisons to become places in which individuals from locations around the world are brought and imprisoned without charge or trial, eroding our Constitution and adherence to international law beyond recognition.

The Center for Constitutional Rights will continue to fight indefinite detention wherever it occurs: whether it continues at Guantánamo, is brought to the United States, or is perpetuated elsewhere. For ongoing updates and information on this and other issues, you can sign up to receive CCR email updates and alerts here.

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This page last updated: April 1, 2010

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