Obama Reverses Position on Military Trials for Gitmo Terror Suspects

March 7, 2011 - 4:18 PM

Gitmo, al Qaeda cook

In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, 50-year-old al-Qaida cook from Sudan, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, attends his war crimes trial at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Janet Hamlin, Pool)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama has ended a two-year ban on military trials for terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, signing an executive order Monday that reverses the policy he put in place shortly after he took office.

“From the beginning of my Administration, the United States has worked to bring terrorists to justice consistent with our commitment to protect the American people and uphold our values,” Obama said in a statement Monday. “Today, I am announcing several steps that broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees.”

Faced with strong opposition in Congress to trying Guantanamo detainees, including 9/11 suspects, in the United States, Obama was forced to retreat from his campaign pledge to shut down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But on Monday, Obama said his administration still is considering a plan to try terror suspects in civilian courts. That became a point of major controversy when Attorney General Eric Holder initially announced that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be tried in the United States, a trial that still has not happened.

“I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system – including Article III Courts – to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened,” Obama’s statement on Monday said.

“Going forward, all branches of government have a responsibility to come together to forge a strong and durable approach to defend our nation and the values that define who we are as a nation.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued an order rescinding his January 2009 suspension on referring new charges in the military commissions, according to the White House. New charges in military commissions have been suspended since Obama announced his review of detainee policy shortly after taking office in 2009.

A White House fact sheet issued Monday said, “In recent months, some in Congress have sought to undermine this process. In December, Congress enacted restrictions on the prosecution of Guantanamo detainees in Federal courts. The Administration opposes these restrictions as a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to Executive authority to select the most effective means available to bring terrorists to justice and safeguard our security.

“The Executive Branch possesses the information and expertise necessary to make the best judgment about where a particular prosecution should proceed, and Congress’s intrusion upon this function is inconsistent with the long-standing and appropriate allocation of authority between the Executive and Legislative branches,” the fact sheet said.