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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The President Has Totally Misread GITMO

It appears near certain that in the next year some or all of the GITMO detainees will wind up in Thomson, Illinois.

Republicans were lining up to criticize the Obama administration Tuesday
over its decision to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a prison
in Illinois, accusing President Obama of increasing the threat to America's
security by making the U.S. home to suspected terrorists.

The White House announced Tuesday that the government will
acquire the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., an underutilized
1,600-cell prison in a sleepy town near the Mississippi River, to house
detainees currently held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo.

"The president has directed that the federal government proceed with the
acquisition of the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois to house
federal inmates and a limited number of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba," a senior administration official said in a statement released by the
White House.

The president appears to believe that the closure of GITMO is a victory in and of itself and moving these prisoners anywhere is justified. It's absolutely true that this prison is underserved. It's also true that as a result the local economy has suffered. It's also true that the government in Thomson is very happy with this move. Beyond that, nothing is certain. I don't know if the folks of Thomson want this. The polling nationally is heavily against this.

The president believes that moving these guys out of GITMO will be viewed as a significant human rights victory. That's of course nonsense. The conditions at GITMO are much nicer for the prisoners than they would be in a super max. Thomson is cold seven out of twelve months. The prisoners will see very little sunlight. Many will spend most of their time in isolation.

The America haters aren't going to be satisfied. They believe that none of these folks should remain detained indefinitely. They don't view them as enemy combatants but as criminals. They want them tried for crimes and released if they're found not guilty. President Obama has already said that some of these folks won't get that. If a terrorist is housed indefinitely in Thomson, that's no different to America haters than if they're housed indefintely in GITMO.

The terrorists are certainly not going to care. If the president thinks that this will remove a recruiting tool, he's sadly mistaken. The terrorists will simply turn Thomson into a symbol of America's treachery.

Beyond that, this is a logistical head ache. There are criminals at Thomson. The government will either need to move them elsewhere or make sure that none makes contact with a terrorist. If a terrorist is injured or worse at the hands of a regular inmate, that is a complete PR debacle. If a common criminal is recruited into Al Qaeda, that is a PR debacle and worse.

Furthermore, moving everyone onto U.S. soil immediately gives them significantly more rights. It will be very difficult to house them indefinitely if they are on U.S. soil. We'll have much less leeway to interrogate if they are on U.S. soil. Each prisoner will be stacked with all sorts of new rights once they are on U.S. soil. All sorts of evidentiary issues will be raised. Depending on how evidence was gathered against them, the government will have all sorts of problems using that evidence in court.

Whatever short term PR victory Obama will have, it will be short lived. As soon as the world sees a bunch of these guys stuck in a cell 23 hous a day, the same human rights issues will be raised. The same folks that demanded that GITMO be closed will now demand that each be tried or released. All Obama will do is now put pressure on his administration to give each and everyone a trial in a timely manner. Since some of these guys have been waiting eight plus years, there will be plenty of calls to make that time immediately.

Sure the economy of Thomson will improve. Thomson has about six hundred people in it. They may all think this is great but they are six hundred out of hundreds of millions. The majority will think this is looney.


Bill St. Clair said...

Wanting prisoners to be given a proper trial rather than be detained indefinitely without trial somehow makes me an America hater? I thought it made me a lover of the Bill of Rights.

mike volpe said...

enemy combatants don't get civilian trials. Criminals get civilian trials. You want enemies in war to get Constitutional protections. Do you think Nazis got those?

John Freeman said...

What is the distinction between an enemy combatant and a criminal? What is it that separates Al Qaeda from any other gang of thugs, e.g. the Klan or the Mafia? They represent no government or nation. They do not seek to limit their attacks to military targets. What is it that makes them warriors?

John Freeman said...

The reason some of us continue to support due process is the fact that so many innocent people have been unilaterally declared "enemy combatants", tortured, then hidden at Guantanamo.

mike volpe said...

One is an act of war and the other is a criminal act. Nothing the mafia has ever done can be construed an act of war. Furthermore, Al Qaeda's act are illegal acts of war as they target civilians.

ben famous said...

Finally I havent heard anything about this since Obama was first elected...

Hamster said...

Based on the author's logic we must have made a big mistake when we
tried and imprisioned

Ramzi Yousef, Mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
Zacharias Moussaoui, 9/11 Conspirator.
Wahid el-Hage, Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, Mohammed Rashed al-Owhali, and
Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, East African embassy bombing perpetrators.
Richard C. Reid, “Shoe Bomber” convicted for trying to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic with explosives in his shoe.
Muhammad Salameh, 1993 World Trade Center bombing perpetrator.

Would you be surprised if I told you they have been at The Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado (ADX Florence) for YEARS!!

Hello. Colorado is in the USA!!!

Give us a break. Terrorist have been tried and housed on American soil for years and non of you conservatives never seemed to get all weak kneed , concerned and scared of terrorist on American soil..... until now.

Of course...Slow minded people have been known to display delayed reactions

mike volpe said...

Yes, most of those guys were tried before we considered terrorism an act of war and that's the problem.

Moussaoui's trial was a circus and he was arrested in the U.S. before 9/11. Richard Reid probably should have been tried in a military court but he's only one person.

You are now talking about bringing them en masse and trying all of them in a civilian court. That's the problem.