Wherefore Art Thou, Guantanamo?
Far from decisively acting to close Guantanamo down, the Obama administration has dithered over the closing of the prison. Not hearing too much from the left about that. I guess they're busy collecting signatures supporting the biggest deficit hike in history.
During President Obama's 60 Minutes interview, the maligned prison came up once again. John Hawkins noted:
This is what we’re abandoning -- but, for what? When Kroft asked Obama what comes next for the terrorists imprisoned at Gitmo, he didn’t seem to know.Well, I think we’re going to have to figure out a mechanism to make sure that they are not released on U.S. (inaudible), but do so in a way that is consistent both with our traditions, a sense of due process, and international law.
So Obama has announced we’re closing Gitmo, but he still hasn’t figured out what comes next? Isn’t that a bit of an issue, since we have these terrorists in hand, will presumably be capturing more, and even the New York Times is admitting that European nations are “hedging” on helping us with Gitmo inmates? Shouldn’t Obama have thought this all the way through before he decided to close down Guantanamo Bay?
The challenges inherent in closing Guantanamo Bay are many. Probably least important to legal experts but most important to citizens is the safety of Americans should Guantanamo detainees be put into American prisons. It is bad enough to have military officers trained to deal with this sort of inmate at risk; it's worse to have federal prison guards put at risk. If harm comes to a prison guard or even an inmate, how will Americans perceive the choice to put terrorists in American prisons?
Prison guards and fellow inmates wouldn't be the only American lives put at risk. Consider the transfer of the inmates to prisons and to court. All points in between would be huge security problems. Imagine the propaganda coup should an al-Qaeda operative find a way to disrupt, bomb, or interfere with the proceedings.
As it stands, Guantanamo Bay has been a boon for al-Qaeda propaganda. One of the misguided notions has been that al-Qaeda wouldn't exploit any chosen method of detention. Lies. It's the enemy's stock in trade. They'd find a way to exploit the American justice system and portray themselves as victims.
Besides security, there are the legalities. Bottom line: it's complicated. Some terrorists are so dangerous that extreme measures were taken to prevent further attacks. However, the interrogation methods wouldn't stand legal scrutiny and the evidence against them would unlikely be admissible in American court. But no reasonable person would argue that these monsters should be free.
Perhaps worst of all for the Obama administration are the political realities and risks of closing Guantanamo. Matthew Waxman says:
If federal prosecutions aren't workable in many cases, and releasing the most dangerous detainees is ruled out, the new administration has several options -- all of them with significant downsides. It could continue to hold current and future detainees in U.S. facilities as "enemy combatants" and let current habeas corpus litigation continue through the courts. Or it could try to prosecute them in reformed military commissions with more lenient evidentiary rules. But both these options look much like the deeply discredited Bush administration policy, only moved inside U.S. borders.
So President Obama needs to close Guantanamo and create a solution that doesn't look too much like Guantanamo. No one else wants the terrorists, really. From the New York Times:
Aside from analyzing intelligence and legal filings on each of the remaining detainees, diplomats and legal experts have said the new administration will need to begin an extensive new international effort to resettle as many as 150 or more of the remaining men. Portugal and other European countries have recently broken a long diplomatic standoff, saying they would work with the new administration and might accept some detainees who cannot be sent to their home countries because of concerns about their potential treatment.
So some European countries might accept these powder kegs. Seems they also don’t want the innocent lambs among their prison population and population in general. They want to snipe at President Bush for vague human rights concerns but they don’t want to expose their own populations to the risk these guys present. How very typically hypocritical.
The answer then must be to release the "non-threatening" guys in America. No one is imagining President Barack Obama as a tough guy, but even this idea might be viewed as too soft -- well, for most people. The ACLU’s Anthony Romero probably loves the idea. He wants more than Guantanamo closing. “Just like we need specifics on an economic recovery package,” Mr. Romero said, “we need specifics on a ‘justice recovery package.’”
Karl Rove, speaking at the Heritage Foundation, brought up a good point: "Are our soldiers going to have to read Miranda rights to terrorists in Afghanistan? What are we supposed to call them [terrorists]? These are people who were found on a battlefield and need to be dealt with in military commissions not offered an attorney from the ACLU."
Seems that's just what President Obama is hoping for, but it's turning out to be more complicated to figure out -- and it's a pretty big campaign promise to shelve.
One wonders if his followers will notice if Guantanamo is still open a year from now.