WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is resuming military trials for terrorist detainees at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — a clear sign that the White House feels it can-not fulfill a key campaign promise to close the island prison.
President Obama also announced that he was setting new review guidelines for prisoners there that he said would "broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees."
But he left open the possibility of federal trials in this country for some detainees.
"I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates," Obama said. "And we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system including Article III (federal civilian courts) to en-sure that our security and our values are strengthened."
Administration sources said that the executive order will provide Guantanamo detainees with more periodic reviews and other provisions to evaluate their cases, deter-mine how resolved they re-main in fighting the United States, and helping to safe-guard their rights while in military custody.
They also indicated that more detainees likely will be brought to Guantanamo Bay, and that others already there will soon be prosecuted.
At the start of his presidency in January 2009, Obama banned on the filing of any new military tribunal charges against Guantanamo Bay prisoners. The administration finds itself hamstrung by congressional prohibitions, led by Republicans, that prevent the White House from mothballing the prison and disallow government funds to transfer prisoners for trials in federal courts.
Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU's executive director, said the best way to get the U.S. out of the "Guantanamo morass" is to close it and move any remaining prisoners to federal courts.
"Today's executive order institutionalized indefinite detention, which is unlawful, unwise and un-American," he said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he welcomed Obama's decision to start bring new charges, but he was "extremely disappointed" over the administration's desire to try some inmates in federal courts.