Thursday, May 21, 2009

Preventative Detention?

According to the NYTimes, Obama told human rights activists that he is ruminating over the idea of preventative detention. What is "preventative detention"? It is what it sounds like. It is the incarceration of suspects, who, it seems, as of yet have not done anything (or we cannot prove they have done anything) who cannot be tried. This sounds eerily like the movie "Minority Report" with its concept of "pre-crime," but without all of the psychic stuff.
The two participants, outsiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was intended to be off the record, said they left the meeting dismayed.

They said Mr. Obama told them he was thinking about “the long game” — how to establish a legal system that would endure for future presidents. He raised the issue of preventive detention himself, but made clear that he had not made a decision on it. Several senior White House officials did not respond to requests for comment on the outsiders’ accounts.

“He was almost ruminating over the need for statutory change to the laws so that we can deal with individuals who we can’t charge and detain,” one participant said. “We’ve known this is on the horizon for many years, but we were able to hold it off with George Bush. The idea that we might find ourselves fighting with the Obama administration over these powers is really stunning.”
The other participant said Mr. Obama did not seem to be thinking about preventive detention for terrorism suspects now held at Guantánamo Bay, but rather for those captured in the future, in settings other than a legitimate battlefield like Afghanistan. “The issue is,” the participant said, “What are the options left open to a future president?”

This does sound like a Bush/Cheney idea. I find this news highly disappointing. I am just reminded, as I often am, of a saying of Ben Franklin's:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

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