Real Change

by digby

Spencer Ackerman writes about his creepy experience on a tour of Guantanamo a couple of years ago and happily announces this:

Less than a week after his election, and more than two months before he takes office, Barack Obama is signaling that this monstrosity is coming to an end. This, I submit -- to my uncle and anyone else -- is change you can believe in. The AP, via Time:

President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice.

It takes guts to leak their plans to do this right out of the gate since I'm pretty sure the right is going to have a monumental hissy fit over it and it could color his relationship with the military and the CIA. And a "controversial new system of justice" sets off a lot of alarms among us civil liberties slags as well. If we get up in arms, we all know it would mean that Obama is being "dragged to the left" by his dirty hippie base. (I hope it turns out to be something that we can all live with.) But bringing the prisoners to the US and giving them a "fair trial" is an opportunity for the wingnuts to try to stage a "gays in the military" style distraction if it's not handled carefully. With the endless gasbag bloviating about Clinton's allegedly monumental leftwingnuttiness in 1992 I expect they are very well aware of this.

(I would hope they poll on how many people know that he campaigned promising to close it before they do anything. If public perception is malleable, they may need to do some work on it ahead of time or the right will have the upper hand. I suspect that most people didn't realize that both he and McCain said they'd close it and are susceptible to manipulation. Best to get ahead of the curve before the noise machine kicks into high gear.)

How the military and the CIA respond is a different problem. They tend to test new Democratic presidents, particularly those without military experience, so it's possible that this will result in a lot of leaks and backstabbing. Hopefully, they'll wait and use something else since Gitmo is such a festering sore on our national reputation that even they will see the usefulness of such a move. There will be plenty of opportunities for them to flex their muscles and try to show the new pres who's boss.

Guantanamo is a terrible, terrible legal, moral and practical mess. I don't envy anyone trying to deal with it. After all, after kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning these people for years, even those who were innocent are likely to be radical and probably somewhat dangerous at this point. I know I would be under those circumstances. I don't know that real justice is even possible.

They've got one of the finest legal minds in the world working on it, Lawrence Tribe, so I'm hopeful he and his team will come up with something transparent, just and fair. But it's not going to be easy to thread the public relations, national security or human rights needles on this without getting stuck. It will be a real test of the new administration's political acumen. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they can get it done right. This is hugely important.`