* MAY 14, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is weighing plans to detain some terror suspects on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without trial -- as part of a plan to retool military commission trials that were conducted for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The proposal being floated with members of Congress is another indication of President Barack Obama's struggles to establish his counter-terrorism policies, balancing security concerns against attempts to alter Bush-administration practices he has harshly criticized.
Obama Administration Manages Detainee Policy
WSJ's Justice Department reporter Evan Perez discusses the Obama administration's efforts to create a detainee policy in line with both national security concerns and the critiques Obama raised during his campaign.
On Wednesday, the president reversed a recent administration decision to release photos showing purported abuse of prisoners at U.S. military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Obama cited concern that releasing the pictures could endanger U.S. troops. Mr. Obama ordered government lawyers to pull back an earlier court filing promising to release hundreds of photos by month's end as part a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The decision to block the detainee photos contrasts with the administration's release last month of Bush-era Justice Department memorandums outlining the interrogation tactics used on prisoners by the Central Intelligence Agency. The release of the memos set off a heated political fight, with supporters of the Bush administration accusing the Obama White House of endangering the country and some of the current president's supporters calling for criminal probes of those responsible for the interrogation policies.
The administration's internal deliberations on how to deal with Guantanamo detainees are continuing, as the White House wrestles with how to fulfill the president's promise to shutter the controversial prison. But some elements of the plans are emerging as the administration consults with key members of Congress, as well as with military officials, about what to do with Guantanamo detainees.
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.), who met this week with White House Counsel Greg Craig to discuss the administration's plans, said among the proposals being studied is seeking authority for indefinite detentions, with the imprimatur of some type of national-security court.
Sen. Graham said he wants to work with the administration to pass legislation to increase judicial oversight of military commissions, but noted the legal difficulties that would arise.
U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement at the White House on Wednesday.
"This is a difficult question. How do you hold someone in prison without a trial indefinitely?" Sen. Graham said.
The White House had no comment Wednesday about its detainee deliberations.
The idea of a new national security court has been discussed widely in legal circles, including by Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Neal Katyal, a former Georgetown law professor and now Obama Justice Department official.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, at a hearing last month, hinted at the administration's deliberations, saying that there were "50 to 100 [detainees] probably in that ballpark who we cannot release and cannot trust, either in Article 3 [civilian] courts or military commissions."
The administration's move to block the release of military detainee photos was welcomed by Republicans in Congress and by some military family groups but condemned by the ACLU and others.
Mr. Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had all raised concerns with the White House about releasing the detainee photos. Mr. Gates and the commanders worried that the pictures would spur new anti-American violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
—Yochi J. Dreazen contributed to this article.