Obama won't change terror detention system: report

WASHINGTON Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:04pm EDT

Flags wave above the sign posted at the entrance to Camp Justice, the site of the U.S. war crimes tribunal compound, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba May 31, 2009. REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool

Flags wave above the sign posted at the entrance to Camp Justice, the site of the U.S. war crimes tribunal compound, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba May 31, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brennan Linsley/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration has decided not to seek legislation to establish a new detention system to hold foreign terrorism suspects, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The administration will instead rely on a 2001 congressional resolution to continue to detain al Qaeda or Taliban suspects indefinitely and without charge, the Post reported, citing administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The administration has concluded that its current, court-tested detention powers are adequate to hold some Guantanamo Bay detainees indefinitely, the report said.

Senior Justice Department officials first told legal advocates and representatives of human rights organizations at a meeting last week that the administration would not pursue new legislation, the newspaper reported.

A Justice Department spokesman told the newspaper that no new ground was broken in the meeting and that the information had been previously provided by the Justice Department to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Top Democratic lawmakers and rights advocates had signaled opposition to any new indefinite-detention system, arguing that it would expand government powers and undermine the rule of law and U.S. legal traditions, the Post said.

The newspaper said a number of academics and legislators had called for new detention authority legislation that could provide legal backing in cases in which detainees are held without charge.

There are about 229 men still held at the military prison on a U.S. Navy base in Cuba. The United States has been widely criticized for the detention of suspects there for years without trial.

President Barack Obama has pledged to close the prison by January 2010. The facility was opened in 2002 by the Bush administration to house suspected militants in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

(Writing by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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