[JURIST] The US Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [official website] has cautioned that Guantanamo Bay detainees tried by military commission [JURIST news archives] in the US have some constitutional protections [WSJ report], the Wall Street Journal [media website] reported on Monday. According the report, the OLC told the White House in a confidential memo that while federal courts may not extend all Constitutional rights to detainees, they were likely to find that the use of coerced statements would violate Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment [text]. The memo advised the White House to seek changes to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] to address the Fifth Amendment issue and strengthen the constitutional basis of the commissions, echoing the conclusion reached [JURIST report] last week by the US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website].
Last month, US President Barack Obama [official website] announced [JURIST report] that he would use the controversial military commissions system to try some Guantanamo Bay detainees. The move drew criticism [JURIST report] from human rights groups, which called the plan "fatally flawed," continuing a long line of criticism of the commissions [JURIST report] for admitting some evidence that is barred from federal court, including hearsay or coerced confessions. In January, Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directing the military prison be closed "as soon as practicable and no later than one year from the date of this order," which has led the government to consider various options for detainee disposition.