The Blog

Task Force Delays

11:01 AM, Jul 21, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Obama administration's detention policy task force released its preliminary report last night. The report falls well short of providing a comprehensive strategy for detaining and trying terrorists and suspected terrorists captured abroad. For example, the report's authors say they would prefer to use the federal courts to try detainees, but military commissions are still on the table for some detainees. This is hardly earth-shattering progress.

The task force does say that soldiers will not be required to read suspects their Miranda rights on the battlefield because that would be a dangerous practice. I'm glad we cleared that up!

The task force sought and received a six-month extension to complete its work. That means that the task force's final report is now presumably due in January of 2010 -- the same month Gitmo is scheduled to be closed according to an executive order signed by President Obama during his first days in office.

How could this not cause problems? As it now stands, the remaining detainees at Gitmo will have to placed within the "proper" system within days/weeks of the task force publishing its final recommendations. This means that dozens, perhaps well more than 100 detainees, will -- in short order -- be placed in the federal court system or the military commissions system, released or transferred, or placed in some other form of indefinite detention. It is difficult to see how the administration could pull this off.

Complicating matters further, there is another task force reviewing the files on each of the remaining detainees. This task force is scheduled to release its final report later this year, that is, if it does not get an extension too. The detention policy task force will have to coordinate its work with this detainee review task force if they are to properly "map" each remaining detainee into the proper system. This is no easy task. And as we've already seen, the detainee review task force got off to an inauspicious start.

Then you have the problem of finding homes for the detainees the administration does not want to try or detain. Again, that is not easy. The administration has made some progress in recent months, but still has not even found a home for all of the detainees it thinks should be released/transferred asap.

All of this confirms that the January 2010 closure date for Gitmo was, at the very least, overly "ambitious."