WASHINGTON — Obama administration officials are drafting an executive order that would set up a review process for detainees held indefinitely at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the White House said yesterday.
The draft executive order, which has not been sent to President Obama, is in line with procedures Obama broadly described in a May 2009 speech about detainees who would be held indefinitely at that military prison, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
During a press conference touting a series of end-of-the-year legislative victories, Obama declined to discuss details of the proposed order. But he did say some detainees cannot be prosecuted because evidence against them was tainted during their apprehension or detention before they were moved to Guantanamo. Some were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique.
Still, Obama said some of the detainees are simply too dangerous to be released.
“When I get that report I’m sure I will have more comments on it,’’ Obama said. “Striking this balance between our security and making sure we are consistent with our values is not easy.’’
The draft of the executive order was first reported Tuesday night in a story posted on the website of The Washington Post.
Such an order would be further acknowledgment by Obama that his campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay will remain unfulfilled for the foreseeable future. The president has long said that some terrorist suspects would be held indefinitely, but he has added that he hoped that would be on US soil.
By setting up a review process for detainees at Guantanamo by executive order, the president could make indefinite detention somewhat more palatable to liberal voters who adamantly oppose it. An executive order also would allow Obama to avoid Congress, which has shown reluctance to follow Obama’s lead on Guantanamo issues.
Gibbs declined to discuss specifics of the executive order, saying the administration had “not even begun the process of a deputies committee meeting.’’
Reports of the plan to hold some detainees indefinitely drew swift opposition from rights groups. The Center for Constitutional Rights argued that Guantanamo detainees need to be tried in federal court or released.