Obama's Gitmo Lies

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Obama's Vow

President-elect Barack Obama vowed on the campaign trail to shut down the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But he never said what he would do with the prisoners there.

What to do with the 250 alleged foreign terrorists at the Cuba prison is the real question facing Obama, experts say.

Terrorism experts and two recent analyses of unclassified information on the prison population indicate the men who remain there are either committed, highly skilled al-Qaeda operatives too dangerous to ever free, or Islamists whose native countries would do little to prevent them from rejoining the jihad.

"The words sounds simple, but it's wrapped in some very complex issues," Air Force Col. Mo Davis, former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, said of shutting down the prison. "Saying it is a lot easier than doing it."

More . . .
Obama Predicts Failure
In a wide-ranging 70-minute interview with Washington Post reporters and editors, Obama pledged quick action on the Middle East once he takes office, promised to support voting rights for D.C. residents, and said he will consider it a failure if he has not closed the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the end of his first term in office.

What?  During the campaign, Obama often demanded the immediate closure of Gitmo and promised just that repeatedly.  It didnít make much of a splash during the general election, as John McCain made the same pledge.  In fact, his transition team suggested that Obama would issue an executive order in the first days of his administration to get the ball rolling on that task.

And now?  Now Obama has decided to set the expectation that it might take as long as four years to figure out how to fulfill his campaign promise.  This stunning nugget that dropped into the Postís lap was recognized as so newsworthy that the Post failed to even ask about the four-year shift in the timeline even once.  Gitmo only gets one more mention in the 34-paragraph story -- in paragraph 28.  And in that paragraph, the Post tells readers that Obama is "confident" that he can make his new self-imposed deadline of whenever.

This tends to prove the notion that the throbbingly warm reception Obama received this week in the Postís office was no fluke.
Where's Your Evidence?
The No.2 Republican in the Senate took President Obama to task Sunday for claiming Guantanamo Bay created more terrorists than it ever detained by serving as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., called the charge "palpably false" and said the White House has not provided any evidence to back up the claim.

"He meant to say that 770 people or more became terrorists because we have a prison at Guantanamo?" Kyl said on "FOX News Sunday."

"9/11 hijackers didn't do their deeds because of Gitmo.  The people who ... blew up the (U.S.S.) Cole or the Kolbar Towers or the first World Trade Center didn't say, 'There's Gitmo down there,' because it didn't exist.  And even after that I don't think you saw guys sitting around in some coffee shop in Saudi Arabia, saying, 'You know, those Americans have this prison called Gitmo, I think I'll become a terrorist,'" he said.  "I mean, it's palpably false to suggest that the existence of Gitmo created terrorism, and yet the president gets away with that."

"We haven't done anything wrong there," Kyl said.  "We haven't lost our values and Dick Cheney's exactly right in what he said in his speech."

"Whether it's closed or not, we have to have a plan in place that outlines how we deal with the people who are incarcerated there," he told "FOX News Sunday."

Related:  One in 7 who leave Guantanamo involved in terrorism.
The Collapse Of The Guantanamo Myth
John Yoo and Robert Delahunty say that when announcing in 2002 that the U.S. would detain al Qaeda fighters at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously described the base as "the best, least worst place."  Mr. Rumsfeld's quip distilled a truth: The U.S. would capture enemy fighters and leaders, and their detention, while messy, was of great military value.

For two years, Barack Obama has pretended that terrorism is a crime, that prisoners are unwanted, and that Gitmo is unneeded.  As a presidential candidate, he declared: "It's time to show the world . . . we're not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they're there or what they're charged with."  Upon taking office, he ordered Gitmo closed within the year.

But Obama's embrace of the left's terrorism-as-crime theories collided with his responsibility to protect a great nation.  Now the reality of the ongoing war on terror is helping to shatter the Gitmo myth and end its distortion of our antiterrorism strategies.

This week the intelligence community reported to Congress that one-quarter of the detainees released from Guantanamo in the past eight years have returned to the fight.  Though the U.S. and its allies have killed or recaptured some of these 150 terrorists, well over half remain at large.  The Defense Department reports that Gitmo alumni have assumed top positions in al Qaeda and the Taliban, attacked allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and led efforts to kill U.S. troops.

Even that 25% recidivism rate is likely too low.  The intelligence community reports that it usually takes about two and a half years before a released detainee shows up on its radar.  Our forces probably have yet to re-engage most of the terrorists among the 66 detainees released so far by the Obama administration.

The Bush administration released many more, but those freed by this administration are likely more dangerous.  Contrary to the Gitmo myth, innocent teenagers and wandering goat herders do not fill the base.  Last May, an administration task force found that of the 240 detainees at Gitmo when Obama took office, almost all were leaders, fighters or organizers for al Qaeda, the Taliban or other jihadist groups.  None was judged innocent.

All of this is having an impact on Congress, which this week voted overwhelmingly to de-fund any effort to shut down the Gitmo prison.  It also barred the Justice Department from transferring detainees to the U.S. homeland.  Despite Attorney General Eric Holder's rush to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in downtown New York, the planners of the 9/11 attacks will stay put.

Congress is reflecting the wishes of the American people.  In the Gitmo myth, President George W. Bush was a Lone Ranger acting without Congressional permission, and Gitmo was a law-free zone.  But the American people never opposed capturing and detaining the enemy.  And now Democratic Congress has ratified Mr. Bush's policy.

Freezing the Gitmo status quo will stop the release of al Qaeda killers, but it won't end the serious distortions in Obama's terrorism policy.

The administration relies on unmanned drones to kill al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  CIA Director Leon Panetta calls it "the only game in town."  Drones take no prisoners, but they also ask no questions.  Firing missiles from afar cannot substitute for the capture and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders for intelligence.  (The real question now is whether CIA agents will decline to interrogate prisoners, thanks to Mr. Holder's criminal investigations into Bush policies.)

As long as no one is sent to Gitmo, the Obama administration will leave itself two options for dealing with terrorists: kill, or catch-and-release.  Obama's drone-heavy policy means that more people will die -- not only al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, but also innocent Afghan and Pakistani civilians.

The Gitmo myth also drove the Justice Department's push to prosecute al Qaeda leaders in U.S. civilian courts.  Nowhere else did the Obama administration place its view of terrorism more clearly on display as a law-enforcement problem.  The near-acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani, the al Qaeda operative who facilitated the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, by a New York jury last month has clearly revealed that path as a dead end -- even if Mr. Holder remains in denial.

The simple alternative is to continue detentions at Gitmo.  Detention is consistent with the rules of war, which allow captured combatants to be held indefinitely without requiring criminal charges to be filed.  It also keeps our troops and agents in the field focused on finding and killing the enemy, not on collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Using its constitutional power of the purse, the new Congress should continue to keep Gitmo in operation. It should press Obama to resume the capture, detention and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders.  It should also educate the public about the real state of affairs in Guantanamo: The military has spent millions to create a model facility.

Most importantly, Congress can use its oversight power to probe the decision-making that led to the release of the 150 or more recidivists.  It can require a full accounting from the military and intelligence agencies of the harms caused by released detainees, and it can bring to light the risks that these bureaucratic mistakes will pose to American lives.

After the left's long denunciation of Bush-era policies, Obama should admit that he has made his share of mistakes -- not the least of which has been propagating the Gitmo myth.  If Americans die at the hands of released detainees, we will know who to blame.
Obamaís Gitmo Plan In Shambles
Josh Gerstein says that nestled among a string of improbable victories Obama racked up in the lame-duck Congressional session is legislation containing the most debilitating setback to date to his plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and send many of its detainees to trials in civilian courts in the U.S.

Language contained in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House and Senate on Wednesday bars the use of Pentagon funds to transfer any Guantanamo prisoner to the U.S. for any reason, including a trial.  Some supporters of plan Obama announced on his first full day in office to close the prison said the passage of the legislation signals near-complete capitulation by the president.

"Obamaís original plan is in shambles," said David Remes, an attorney for 14 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo.  "From the outside it appears to be in shambles because he was never sufficiently committed to the success of his own plan and, as a result, Republicans were able to mobilize to turn the issue against him and he provided the Congressional Democrats no leadership."

For about a year, senior national security officials have struggled with the issue of whether to try alleged September 11 plotters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a military commission or a civilian court -- and, if so, where.  The new legislation seeks to short-circuit that process by leaving military commissions as the only trial option.  Other new requirements in the legislation could slow or stop transfers from Guantanamo to other countries.

In recent days, Attorney General Eric Holder warned that the limits could violate the Constitution by intruding on the Executive Branchís right to make decisions about where prosecutions should be brought.  However, the White House has pointedly refused to say whether Obamaís objection to the Gitmo provisions is so strong that he would veto the entire defense measure.

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