CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta clarified his statement yesterday that there may be a class of terrorism detainee who can’t be tried in court, nor transferred to another country nor released. Or, at least he reiterated it.

Some detainees are so dangerous, he said, that "they may not be able to be tried for that reason, [and] remain dangerous, and for that reason we need to focus on [them]. If we are to maintain that… we need to establish at least some kind of reporting mechanism to the federal courts."

It’s hard to see how this is much different than indefinite detention without charge, and it calls Panetta’s commitment to the rule of law into question. What sort of process would be established to adjudicate detainee guilt or innocence in such a case? This sounds a lot less process-intensive than national security courts. It’ll be interesting to see what the Obama administration’s more progressive legal/security officials — Dawn Johnsen and Marty Lederman at the Justice Dept., Greg Craig and Mary DeRosa in the White House; and Jeh Charles Johnson at the Defense Dept. — make of this.

Crossposted to The Streak.