From NBC's Pete Williams
While expressing their joy at President Obama's executive orders governing the treatment of enemy combatants, human rights groups say they're concerned that the rules leave the door open to indefinitely detaining some of the prisoners now held at Guantanamo Bay.
The Bush administration argued that it had the authority to hold some detainees for as long as the war on terror lasted -- even if they were convicted by a military court and served out their sentences. The Obama order suggests indefinite detention is at least an option.
Many defense lawyers believe the detainees should be placed in only two categories -- those to be charged and tried, or those to be released or sent to another country. But the new Obama Guantanamo order suggests there may be a third category of detainees who cannot be tried, because of problems with evidence, but who are too dangerous to release.
"I do acknowledge and am somewhat worried that they've left the door open for this third category," said Sarah Mendelson, director of the Human Rights and Security Initiative at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said he was worried about the same thing.
"We are hopeful that as the process unfolds and gets clarified, there will be no doubt that detainees must either be charged, prosecuted and convicted, or released," he said.
Lawyers for some of those held at Guantanamo Bay have another concern about President Obama's call for a complete review of all detainee records -- it may have the effect of slowing down or stopping the federal court reviews now going on in Washington, D.C. Lawyers for hundreds of detainees have have aruged in court that their clients are wrongly held, and federal judges have ordered some released, finding the government's evidence unpersuasive.