In a move that represents both a formality and a historic gesture, the Obama administration has announced that it’s withdrawing the designation of “enemy combatant” for Guantanamo detainees. The Bush administration had drawn widespread criticism for its use of that designation, which allowed it to deny detainees rights they otherwise would have been entitled to.
In a press release, the Justice Department said it was submitting a new standard to hold detainees at Gitmo. Rather than relying on the president’s authority as commander-in-chief, the department explained, the new standard “draws on the international laws of war to inform the statutory authority conferred by Congress.”
It also said that the governent is conducting a review of detainee detention policy which could lead to “further refinements.”
President Obama has already announced this intention to close Gitmo within the year. In a sense, today’s announcement is an equally important step in winding down the “War On Terror” concept that the Bush administration announced, and shifting to an approach that sees the fight against terrorism as an effort to be conducted within the bounds of international and domestic law.
In other words: change we can believe in.