President Obama To Revive Flawed Military Commissions

Changes to improve due process protections not enough

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON – News accounts indicate that President Obama will announce today his intent to restart the military commissions for some number of suspected terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay. The commission proceedings were an affront to our nation’s ideals of justice and due process. A decision by President Obama to revive them, even with enhanced due process protections for the detainees, will surely be controversial in this nation and throughout the world.

“It is troubling that President Obama has apparently chosen to revive the flawed military commissions he rightly denounced during his campaign,” said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. “Military commissions are designed to provide lesser due process protections for terrorism suspects than our federal courts do. Throughout our nation’s history, those courts have proven their ability to handle the most difficult and sensitive cases. President Obama should have demonstrated a return to the rule of law by ending the tainted military commission proceedings.”

Reports indicate that President Obama will seek an additional 120-day delay for the nine commission proceedings already under way, allowing time for his administration to propose to Congress changes in the proceedings to enhance the rights of the accused detainees, including a ban on using evidence obtained through harsh interrogation techniques, more limits on hearsay testimony, greater leeway in choosing legal representation, and protections for those who refuse to testify. It is estimated that the revamped commissions will be used for fewer than 20 of the 240 detainees currently at Guantanamo. Some of the others being detained apparently will be handled by the federal court system.

In November, the Constitution Project issued a bipartisan statement condemning proposals for national security courts to handle terrorism cases, urging that our existing federal courts handle these cases instead. An updated version was released in March to include the endorsements of former federal judges and prosecutors. Click here to see the statement.

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