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|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
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.
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
This tends to prove the notion that the throbbingly
warm reception Obama received this week in the Postís office was no
|Where's Your Evidence?
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
said on "FOX News Sunday."
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."
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."
|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
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.
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
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.
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.
Gitmo status quo will stop the release of al Qaeda killers, but it won't
end the serious distortions in Obama's terrorism policy.
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
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.
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
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
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
|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.
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
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
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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