White House may authorize indefinite detentions of terror suspects

Congress is actually giving Obama very little choice. They refuse to fund the closing of Gitmo while dithering about transferring the terrorists to American prisons.

It is almost at the point where Obama's promise - made with much fanfare one day after taking office - to close Gitmo by year's end may not be possible.

It's not that the Obama administration sees the wisdom of holding the dangerous inmates currently residing at Gitmo indefinitely. It's that they have little choice if Congress won't cooperate.

Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn of the Washington Post have the story:

After months of internal debate over how to close the military facility in Cuba, White House officials are increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may be impossible. Several officials said there is concern in the White House that the administration may not be able to close the prison by the president's January deadline.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said that there is no executive order and that the administration has not decided whether to issue one. But one administration official suggested that the White House is already trying to build support for an order.

"Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order," the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should be prosecuted or released.

The Justice Department has declined to comment on the prospects for a long-term detention system while internal reviews of Guantanamo detainees' cases are underway. One task force, which is assessing detainee policy, is expected to complete its work by July 21.

This is one political hot potato that the administration will not be able to finesse. On the one side, they have security advocates who point out that Gitmo is probably the best place for these prisoners - even if Obama wants to review their cases.

On the other side, Obama must satisfy his rabid base of hard left liberals, civil liberties absolutists, and anti-war Moveon types who are screaming bloody murder that the president is even contemplating indefinite detentions. Clearly, Obama's heart is with the far left but the political consequences of changing policy is fraught with danger.

Obama can't straddle this issue; he must decide. This trial balloon being sent up by the administration to gauge lefty reaction to the indefinite detention idea will, in the end, probably be withdrawn if this is the reaction of his allies.