Paul Jacob

It’s true that Congress has, in bipartisan fashion, attempted to block his efforts to close Guantanamo. But it turns out that those efforts have been exceedingly lackluster. The Administration even has the power to waive many of the restrictions imposed by Congress. Somehow, it has never exercised that power. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon said, “The administration has never certified a single transfer” for consideration.

In fact, Obama signed a 2011 executive order specifically creating a formal indefinite detention system at Gitmo. “It is virtually impossible to imagine how one closes Guantanamo in light of this executive order,” an American Civil Liberties Union official said at the time. Administration 0fficials have acknowledged that under Obama's policy some detainees might be held for life without trial.

“So when the president of the United States righteously condemns the idea of imprisoning someone forever without charge or trial,” Charles Davis wrote bluntly in a column at Lobe Log, the foreign policy blog, “it’s important to remember the truth about his record. It’s important to remember he is lying.”

Administration officials, asked for specifics on what could be done after reporters were no doubt awesomely inspired by Obama’s oratory, responded by acknowledging they have not moved quickly enough to set up review boards to seek waivers for moving low-risk prisoners and pledging to fill a post currently left unfilled at the State Department.

Now, large numbers of detainees at Guantanamo desperately protest their plight with a hunger strike. The current regime has responded by force-feeding 21 men, eliciting from the American Medical Association and many others condemnation for a violation of medical ethics.

So, what can we make of this mess? Talk is cheap, but actions speak louder than words. Mr. Obama talks a good game. He’s so symbolic. But our policies — his policies — contradict what he says.

When President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, bestowing upon him the power to incarcerate American citizens indefinitely without charge, he wrote in a “signing statement” that his administration would not “authorize” the use of that power. Of course, by his signature he absolutely authorized it for himself, should he change his mind, or for any successor.

As for changing his mind, when Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, his signing statement made no mention of whether or not the Obama Administration will be snatching American citizens off the street and holding them for decades or life without any due process of law.

What’s the symbolism of that?    [further reading]


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.