Today’s Qs for O’s WH — 2/6/09

By Nitya

Feb 6, 2009 3:01pm

TAPPER: The president later today is going to be meeting with a bunch of families of terrorist victims.  A lot of the people he’s going to be meeting with take issue with his decision to stop the military commissions. They say that it’s been through an extensive legal and legislative review, the Supreme Court has weighed in, and they don’t understand what concerns the president has in this process.  Could you explain, what are some of the concerns the president has specifically about the military commissions?

GIBBS:  Well, I think the main concern that the president has is the military commission’s failure to bring those in detention to swift justice. The president invited family members, families of those that were killed in — first in the USS Cole incident in 2000, and next in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and wants to discuss his plan to bring about changes in Guantanamo that he believes will make this country safer and bring about the very same swift justice that they desire on behalf of those that they know that have been killed.

TAPPER:  I’m sorry.  How does delaying or even renewing the trials make it any swifter?

GIBBS:  Well, I’d — I’d — the act that the Cole families are disappointed — the act that the Cole families were affected by happened in 2000.  We’ve not yet seen justice brought now in 2009 to Mr. al-Nashiri. Judge Crawford withdrew the charges without prejudice to reinstatement of those charges.  Mr. al-Nashiri remains in detention. And her decision brings all cases into compliance with the executive order that the president issued. But — but I think if you look at the number of those awaiting justice and those that have gone through the process, I think you’ll see quite clearly that very few — very few have been brought to justice. The discussion that the president looks forward to having today is part of the ongoing process with how to move forward.  I don’t believe that the families affected by the terrorist incident with the USS Cole have — have seen — they certainly haven’t seen this president, and I don’t believe they saw the last president either. And the president thought it was important to listen to their very personal cares and their concerns about anything that’s involved in this process.

TAPPER:  The arraignment of al-Nashiri was supposed to be Monday, but because of the executive order, the president — Crawford suspended — withdrew the charges.  I still don’t understand, and — how this is going to make the justice any swifter.  I understand the cases that haven’t been heard for other detainees –

GIBBS:  Well, without getting into some of the specific aspects of this case, I think the president believed that the best course of action going forward to bring about the justice that both he and the families seek in this case was to go through the very process that Judge Crawford has done and the executive order that the president has signed.

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Note: After the briefing, Gibbs emailed me an explanation that makes more sense. "The President believes that military commissions as currently constructed will be the subject of years of litigation, which we are trying to avoid as its been long enough for many of these families," he said. "The President believes that the process he’s put in place will create a firmer and more sound legal framework to move forward."

- jpt

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