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from The Great Debate:

Gitmo: Too dangerous to release? Not so fast.

File photo of detainees sitting in a holding area at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay

When the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opens Thursday, we will finally have a national institution dedicated to exploring the effects of the tragic events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The impact of that day on U.S. legal institutions, however, remains a work in progress. The federal court system has proven remarkably adept at handling the hundreds of criminal terrorism cases filed since Sept. 11, 2001. But the polarized politics of terrorism has left Washington paralyzed when it comes to handling the cases of dozens of indefinite detainees still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In New York last week, the U.S. government rested its case against the one-eyed, hook-limbed Sheikh Abu Hamza al Masri, on trial in federal court on terrorism charges. For weeks spectators were treated to a string of government informants, including confessed terrorism supporters, who seemed to have no qualms about taking the witness stand and incriminating the fiery preacher the government says inspired and directed lethal acts against Americans. In April, another extremist cleric, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, was convicted based on similar evidence.

In Washington, however, with the National Defense Authorization Act now pending in Congress, lawmakers and policy experts are again debating what to do about the men the United States has indefinitely detained for alleged terrorist activity at Guantanamo Bay. The question is growing more urgent as Washington prepares to withdraw its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year -- officially ending the war there.  That arguably ends the president’s authority to detain prisoners under the laws of war as well.

from Stories I’d like to see:

A video game called ‘School Shooting,’ backing the video gaming industry, and a qualified lawyer on hold

1. Is there really a game called “School Shooting”?

Last week, the Connecticut State’s Attorney issued his official report  about the shooting a year ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. On page 26 the State’s Attorney noted that among other video games found in the home of murderer Adam Lanza was: “The computer game titled ‘School Shooting’ where the player controls a character who enters a school and shoots at students.”

Is there really such a game? The CBS-owned website Gamespot, which covers news related to video-gaming, reported two days later that, “The ‘School Shooting’ game is somewhat of a mystery. In the 44-page Sandy Hook report released this week, no details are provided regarding who made the game or where it can be purchased or downloaded.”

from David Rohde:

For Obama, a contradiction too many

President Barack Obama will have to deliver one of the finest speeches of his presidency next Tuesday if he hopes to win Congressional support for a strike against Syria. Out of nowhere, the Syria vote has emerged as one of the defining moments of Obama’s second term.

With three years remaining in office, the vote will either revive his presidency or leave Obama severely weakened at home and abroad.

from David Rohde:

Obama’s overdue step on drones

President Obama’s decision to restrict drone strikes and again try to close the Guantanamo Bay prison are overdue steps in the right direction. Myself and many other analysts have called for these very measures over the last year.

Obama must actually follow through on implementation of his proposals, including pressuring Congress to close Guantanamo. And he should fully enact changes that can be carried out by the executive branch, such as handing over responsibility for drones strikes to the U.S. military and making them fully public.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Obama versus Congress on Guantanamo

A young girl holds a picture of Bobby Sands in a republican march to mark the 20th anniversary of the IRA hunger strike at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland May 27. REUTERS/Archive

Barely a week after Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in London, her ghost is stalking the corridors of power. At his press conference on Tuesday in Washington, President Barack Obama was asked about Guantánamo Bay prisoners refusing to eat. In doing so, the veteran CBS reporter Bill Plante, who asked the question, exposed a running sore in the Obama administration. He also invited direct comparison between Obama and Lady Thatcher – who faced a similar dilemma in 1981.

from Photographers' Blog:

Inside Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

By Bob Strong

My visit to the U.S. naval station in Guantanamo Bay Cuba began much like any other military embed. I sent an application to the Press Affairs Office (PAO) explaining who I worked for and the reason for my visit, and a couple of weeks later the trip was approved. The base is divided into two sections, the naval station which has been in existence since 1903, and the Joint Task Force (JTF GTMO) which is where the detainees are held. A special ID is needed to access the JTF section of the base and most residents of the naval station never go there. My visit request was directed at the JTF side, but I was able to work on the naval section as well.

GALLERY: INSIDE GUANTANAMO

I was met at the airport by two Sergeants, who would be my escorts for the entire trip. Although technically I could walk around the naval base unescorted, taking pictures on any military installation often attracts attention, and I ended up doing all of my work while accompanied by PAO personnel. After I arrived I was briefed on what could and could not be photographed, and reminded that all photographs and videos had to be reviewed and approved by military censors. This generally took place at the end of the day and was referred to as the OPSEC (operational security) review.

from The Great Debate:

Keep terrorism trials in U.S. courts

On Friday morning in downtown Manhattan, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law appeared in a federal courtroom to be charged with conspiring to kill Americans. In a sober, orderly proceeding that lasted a total of 17 minutes, Judge Lewis Kaplan explained to Suleiman Abu Ghaith his rights, appointed his defense lawyers, read the charges against him, recorded his plea of “not guilty,” ordered the prisoner’s continued detention and announced that he would set a trial date for the case in 30 days.

Prosecutors have already turned over the bulk of their unclassified evidence against the defendant. Abu Ghaith, who was transferred to New York from Jordan on March 3, is reportedly cooperating with federal authorities and providing important information about al Qaeda.

from Hugo Dixon:

Guantanamo’s detox man

By Hugo Dixon

If anybody can provide a measure of legitimacy to the trials of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Brigadier General Mark Martins may be that person. Barack Obama will certainly be hoping so. Martins, who was on the Harvard Law Review with the president when they were students, has this week taken over as chief prosecutor for military commissions at a time when the highest-profile Guantanamo detainees are coming to trial. The first death penalty moved a step closer last week when a trial was ordered for Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, who allegedly planned the bombing of USS Cole in 2000. The case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is likely to follow shortly afterwards, in what some people are dubbing America’s Nuremberg trial.

The new chief prosecutor is a mixture of brain and brawn. A Rhodes scholar at Oxford, Martins is also a six-foot three-inch fitness freak. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander of the surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan and now director of the Central Intelligence Agency, describes him as a “once in a generation officer.” Martins also has a track record of tackling difficult assignments.

from Tales from the Trail:

Holder huddles with New York team on 9/11 trials

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday flew to New York to huddle with his team that will be in charge of prosecuting and imprisoning the five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

GUANTANAMO-USA/The closed-door meeting at the federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan included the prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and Eastern District of Virginia as well as representatives of the FBI, Bureau of Prisons, the Marshals Service, and the New York Police Department, according to an administration official.

from Tales from the Trail:

The First Draft: NYC awaits day in court 8 years after 9/11

Today seems a day of numbers: 8, 11, 5, 3000, 13. Put another way, more than 8 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the brutally violated City of New York learns that 5 men accused in the deaths of the nearly 3,000 people will face an actual criminal trial -- in New York. SECURITY COMMISSION

Oh, yeah, and the news comes on Friday the 13th.

The lead defendant, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, initially confessed to masterminding the 2001 attacks that set the United States on the road to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he later told a Pentagon war crimes court that the interrogators "were putting many words in my mouth." He also said he wants to be put to death and become a martyr.

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