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Thursday, June 4, 2009

GITMO: The Big Mess

While on whole, I believe that President Obama's speech today was more good than bad, the president continued to insist that GITMO would be closed by the end of January.

To me, the president continues to show not only a dangerous level of hubris but he allows pride to be a deadly sin. The fact is that he made his pronouncement to close GITMO, on his second day in office, with absolutely no plan for how to close it. It's painfully clear that he still has no plan to close it.

The case of the Uighers is a clear example. The Uighers find themselves in a legal netherworld. The Uighers were found to not have enough evidence against them to be convicted. In fact, they are terrorists against the Chinese nation and so, the administration doesn't view them as a threat to the U.S. That said, they were found while training in an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. I wouldn't mistake these for nice librarians. Last October, a judge ordered these folks released. Initially, that's what it appeared the Obama administration would do. Of course, since, there has been all sorts of controversy surrounding releasing any of GITMO's detainees in the U.S. As such, the Obama administration recently filed a brief to block their release. In fact, the administration argued that their current conditions were acceptable.

“In contrast to individuals currently detained as enemies under the laws of war, petitioners are being housed under relatively unrestrictive conditions, given the status of Guantanamo Bay as a United States military base,” Kagan writes, saying they are “in special communal housing with access to all areas of their camp, including an outdoor recreation space and picnic area.” They “sleep in an air-conditioned bunk house and have the use of an activity room equipped with various recreational items, including a television with VCR and DVD players, a stereo system, and sports equipment.”

Now, you can see the problems here. On the one hand, the administration has done nothing but demonize GITMO as something similar to a Gulag since frankly before it was even an administration. On the other hand, when faced with the reality of one of these folks leaving GITMO, suddenly the accomodations are much better than any othe prison.

To put their problems into context though, the Uighers are by far the mildest and simplest case of GITMO detainees.

So far, the Obama administration has floated the idea of one or more yet unnamed supermax prisons. The first problem for the Obama administration with this plan is that the public wholly rejects the idea of any of these prisoners being moved into the U.S. The second is logistical. Most simply have no room.

Moving any large number of terror detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Colorado’s Supermax would require either shuffling current residents out of the Florence prison or expanding its capacity and resolving a long-running battle over adequate prison staffing.

As President Barack Obama and congressional leaders point toward the Colorado federal prison as a possible new home for some of the detainees, one big problem is the bed-space crunch.

The problems only start there. Once these folks are moved onto the mainland, they immediately have a case to receive significantly more rights. It's unclear just how evidence was gathered against many of them. The U.S. certainly doesn't want spies testifying in open court and it would also like to avoid having other terrorists testify in open court. Yet, that's exactly what we might face if these folks wind up in supermax.

Of course, that's exactly what President Obama has been preaching since he was campaigning for president. In fact, during the campaign he boldly proclaimed...

And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo," Obama said. "What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks - for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center - we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

Well as they say Mr. President, be careful what you wish for. President Obama is determined to close GITMO. It's very possible that he thought that he would find willing takers in most of Europe and our allies in Asia and elsewhere. Instead, the rest of the world has refused to take all but one prisoner. In fact, the rest of the world has spun his own argument against him. President Obama has been told that if prisoners are in fact not dangerous then the U.S. should have no trouble holding them internally. Anyone too dangerous for the U.S. is too dangerous for anyone else.

So, right now the president has a ticking clock. It's less than seven months and counting. He has no place to put the prisoners. He has no idea what he will do with them judicially once they get there. Frankly, he hasn't the first clue about much of anything except that he's still determined to close GITMO by January 21, 2010. Both his hubris and his pride are turning the situation into one giant mess.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about strapping parachutes on them and dropping them off back in western China where they came from?