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Few things have generated more leftist fury than the terrorist prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Amnesty International has referred to the facility as a “human rights scandal.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said inmates had been subjected to “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment. One of the central campaign promises made by then-candidate Barack Obama was that, as soon as he was elected, he would “close Guantanamo.” On January 22, 2009 he made good on his intention, signing an executive order which stated that Guantanamo Bay “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.” Almost two years later, intentions have given way to reality. “I think it’s going to be a while before that prison closes,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs during a CNN interview last Sunday.
Why the reassessment? Once again, the seemingly ubiquitous Wikileaks document dumps rears its head. According to a report filed by Reuters earlier this month, the documents “may highlight U.S. government reports on suspected militants held at Guantanamo Bay, which some U.S. officials worry could show certain detainees were freed despite intelligence assessments they were still dangerous.” According to someone who claimed to be in contact with Wikileaks dumper Julian Assange earlier this year, Mr. Assange has “the personal files of every prisoner in GITMO.”
Another sobering dose of reality was offered up by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, the government’s top intelligence official. As a result of the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, Mr. Clapper’s office is required to keep track of former of the activities of both former Gitmo detainees, and whether or not current ones would be likely to return to jihad if they were freed. A report released by that office on December 9th had statistics showing that one in four of the 598 detainees sprung from Guantanamo are either suspected, or confirmed, to have become re-engaged in “terrorist or insurgent activities.” This is a doubling of the number of confirmed or suspected recidivists since the president signed his executive order. It is also the first time that confirmed recidivists outnumber suspected recidivists. “If additional detainees are transferred … some of them will reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities,” the report added.
Most of the terrorists who returned to terrorist activity were released during the Bush administration. The Obama administration has released 66 inmates of which two are confirmed as having returned to terror, and three more are suspected of having done so. Yet the report conceded that it takes about two-and-a-half years after a detainee is released before he again becomes a known quantity within the intelligence community. Thus, the number of recidivist terrorists is almost certain to increase. According to the NY Daily News, current known quantities “include Abdul Hafiz, who handles ransom demands for Taliban kidnappings; Abdullah Mehsud who was given a prosthetic leg at Guantanamo and went on to kill 31 in a Pakistan bombing; and Abu Sufyan al-Adzi al-Shihri who surfaced as a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group that masterminded the attempted airline underwear bombing.”
(Mr. Clapper himself made news recently when he professed no knowledge of a terrorist roundup in London, which had happened only hours before he was interviewed by ABC’s Diane Sawyer. A spokesman from the Director’s office downplayed the incident. “The question about this specific news development was ambiguous. The DNI’s knowledge of the threat streams in Europe is profound and multi-dimensional, and any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate.”)
Why has the Obama administration been so determined to close Guantanamo Bay? The American left has long claimed the terrorist holding facility is inimical to America’s values, or as the president himself stated, closing it was “part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.” Yet one might argue that much of that opposition was an effort to tarnish the Bush administration’s terror strategies in general, using Guantanamo Bay as a convenient prop. That argument is bolstered by the fact that, on December 8th, the House of Representatives–still dominated by Democrats–voted to block the Obama administration’s attempt to send Gitmo inmates to the continental United States for civilian trials. On Wednesday, December 22nd, both chambers of Congress passed a $160 billion Pentagon appropriations bill which included an effective ban on the transfer of any detainees in Guantanamo Bay to the mainland by forbidding the Department of Defense to use any money to move prisoners to the U.S. for any reason–including trials–during the 2011 fiscal year. This leaves military commissions as the only viable option left for the administration.
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