On January 22, as one of his first official acts as president, Barack Obama signed an executive order mandating the closing of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within one year. Liberals on two continents cheered.
But what to do with the detainees? France agreed to take one prisoner; Ireland two. A few others have made “commitments” to take one or two miscreants off of our hands, after months of pleading from the Obama administration. For the most part, however, the Euro-states who did the most braying about Gitmo detainees have declined to accept them into their streets and jails.
For a while, Democrats floated the idea of releasing some of the detainees into federal prisons in the United States. But those plans were met with public uproar after, among other things, FBI director Robert Mueller admitted that bringing the prisoners onto the mainland risked “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States.”
You don’t say.
Gitmo detainees are released on occasion, usually as prelude to a public relations fiasco. In May, the New York Times reported on a unreleased Pentagon report estimating that one in seven of the released Gitmo prisoners return to their old terrorist ways. Said Ali al-Shiri, after being released from Guantanamo in 2007, established himself as chief of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch and has been implicated in the subsequent bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Sana in September 2008. Then there were the Chinese Uighurs, released in June to Bermuda, where they were photographed laughing and sunning it up in paradise while the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 were back in the States watching their 401Ks dwindle to nothingness.
It doesn’t seem as though the administration has quite figured out how to unravel the Gitmo conundrum, though by all accounts Obama remains steadfast in his commitment to close the facility. Some 80 detainees are already set for release; others will be likewise cleared after a comprehensive “review.” Some of the released will doubtless return to jihad.
Among the prisoners still at Guantanamo is Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a.k.a KSM, the self-professed mastermind of the September 11 attacks. The man directly responsible for the plan which vaporized 3,000 human beings, and the man who plotted more atrocities. KSM was captured in Pakistan in March 2003 and refused to talk — until we put the screws on with enhanced interrogation techniques, after which he sang like a canary, divulging endless details of al-Qaeda command structure, personnel, and plans. He became what the CIA calls their “preeminent source” for information on the terror network.
But not until he was waterboarded 183 times.
Is there really any question that these interrogations saved American lives? Not if you believe George Tenet, a Bill Clinton appointee who served as CIA director from 1997 until 2004. Tenet told CBS News that aggressive interrogation was crucial to warding off further attacks in the aftermath of 9/11. Tenet is unblinking in his assessment:
I know that this program [enhanced interrogation] saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots. … I know this program is worth more than the F.B.I., the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.
More and more people are coming around to Tenet’s view. Even the Washington Post, no cheerleader of Bush-era war policy, admitted on August 29 that KSM’s switch from incommunicado to stool pigeon “occurred after Mohammed was subjected to simulated drowning and prolonged sleep-deprivation, among other harsh interrogation techniques.”
But that apparently does not matter to Barack Obama, the self-appointed apostle of American virtue. His attorney general, Eric Holder, has announced after months of hints and threats that he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate (and possibly prosecute) CIA operatives who interrogated the likes of KSM with the methods that got results.
The message to our warriors and spies is clear. Save American lives, risk prosecution. Break a terrorist, lose your life.
What fool will now apply for the dirty, dangerous, necessary job of interrogating madmen bent on the slaughter of Americans? Few, if any. The Obama administration has made one of two calculations:
1) A spy agency can be both virtuous and effective, or
2) It is more important for a spy agency to be virtuous than effective.
The former is an intellectual lapse; the latter a moral one. In either case, the result will be more spilled American blood.
Our pristine robes will be small consolation to the orphans.