Closing Gitmo: There's No Room for Error
One of President Obama's first decisions upon taking office was to issue an executive order mandating the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison where suspected terrorists are being held. As a lightning rod for anti-American propagandists and those genuinely concerned about civil liberties, the closure of the camp is an admirable objective, but should it be done hastily and without adequate planning, a disaster will be forthcoming.
The next generation of terrorists and radical Islamists may be led by former Gitmo prisoners, as the rate of recidivism of one in seven indicates. Already, several terrorists that have quickly climbed through the ranks of the extremist elite are known to have been former Gitmo residents, now supplied with the knowledge of the U.S. legal and interrogation processes that such experience provides.
If you're looking for proof that the terrorists have perfected the practice of taqiyya, the calculated manipulation of an enemy, look no further than Mullah Zakir. Once a top commander for Taliban forces, he was captured in 2001 and released in 2007. Today, he is a high-level enemy official, a commander of Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan believed to have helped manage the relationship between the Afghani and Pakistani Taliban.
Keenly aware of the West's inclination to give people the benefit of the doubt, he followed a carefully written script before his release, speaking supportively of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan because "they are building my country." He claimed he was forced into being a commander for the Taliban, saying that "I have never been America's enemy and I never intend to be."
One of the options that has been used by the Bush administration and will be used by the Obama administration as it decides what to do with the Gitmo prisoners is sending them to the "rehabilitation program" of Saudi Arabia. While many officials seem to believe this program has been successful, the cost of when it fails will be exceedingly high.
At the same time, we need to remember that a lot of the information about the "success" of the program comes from the Saudis themselves, who have a vested interest in trying to portray themselves as a full-fledged partner in the war on terror. While Saudi officials bragged that not a single graduate of their "rehabilitation" program had relapsed, it was later found out that this was untrue, when the Saudis released a list of their most-wanted terrorists. The biographies of some of the terrorists revealed that several had been former Gitmo prisoners and had gone through their program, a fact the Saudis likely knew but failed to disclose as they boasted about their success. It's possible that the Saudis suddenly found out about their former patients' relapse shortly before the most-wanted terrorist list was put together, but based on the Saudis' past history of deception, we should be skeptical.