Obama’s Shattered Dream to Kill Gitmo

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While the public eye was focused on the signing of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill, and while the media was regaled at the White House by a special presidential briefing, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a ban on the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. The ban may be a death knell for the administration’s goal to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, as well as its push for detainee civilian trials. In effect, the Obama administration will be forced into handling captured terrorists in a way that is not appreciably different from the Bush administration. Military commissions will reign, and Guantanamo Bay will be their venue.

Prior to the 2008 presidential election, President Obama had been univocally opposed to the continuing existence of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, as well as the indefinite detention of terrorists. Although committed to seeing Guantanamo closed, the practicalities of doing so have proven relatively intractable for the president. The closure of the facility is now overdue by almost a full year, despite febrile attempts by the administration to ship detainees to receptive (and bribed) foreign countries, and a renewed emphasis on using the civilian court system. As early as the spring of 2009, the president signaled that indefinite detainment would not be discontinued anytime soon, although he was reportedly “grappling” with the idea at the time. The problem has always been that there are a number of detainees who are too dangerous to release and yet, cannot be tried in the civilian court system with sufficient guarantee of prosecution. In these cases, the administration fears (inter alia) evidentiary taint from “torture” or the inadmissibility of information because it is too sensitive to use in court.

There are approximately 48 Guantanamo prisoners, out of 174 remaining, who fall into this category. The Obama administration has been forced to continue the practice of indefinite detention with these individuals, but the ideal place for detention, as far as the administration is concerned, is in the U.S. In 2009, the administration proposed opening a prison in the president’s home state of Illinois to hold these terrorists (and others awaiting trial). This suggestion received fierce bipartisan condemnation. Another deeply contentious issue has been the unremitting insistence that detainees — most famously Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks — be tried in the civilian court system. These and other issues proved enormous obstacles to the closure of Guantanamo, as legal processing has been less than expeditious, while a viable alternative location has not been forthcoming.

The transfer ban in the defense authorization bill is the proverbial nail in the coffin for civilian trials, the prospect of a domestic prison, and more than likely, for the push to close the detention facility itself. The ban forbids transfer of detainees to the U.S. for any reason, including prosecution. It also expressly prohibits the construction or purchase of a surrogate facility in the U.S. Furthermore, there is virtually no chance that President Obama will exercise his executive authority to veto the bill, as it is one aspect of a general spending bill necessary to fund the Afghanistan War. Thus, the Obama administration is effectively forced to continue military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, continuing operations virtually identically to the Bush administration, with perhaps one small change.

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  • Reason_For_Life

    Obama is an authoritarian. Why would a dictator wannabe get rid of a prison for "terrorists" when he can decide who is a terrorist? Remember Homeland Security's new threat – returning veterans, gun rights advocates and right wing groups?

    Civilian trials are such a burden requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt and with strict constitutional protections of individual rights. Why would Obama want to use civilian courts with open evidence when he can use tribunals with secret evidence?

    He isn't going to get rid of Guantanamo. He's keeping it for an emergency, you know, the kind that would be a shame to waste.

  • davarino

    Hehehe, what an amateur. Its easy to yell and scream from the peanut gallery when you dont know what the hell your talking about, but when you actually become president, reality sets in and you have to quickly change course.

    Watch, he may become a capitalist before 2012, or better yet, a conservative hehehhe

    Not holding my breath

  • Rifleman

    Illegal combatants should be tried by military tribunal and hung with no spectacle or fanfare. We need not compromise our classified info in the slightest to do so.

    • BS77

      Thank you Rifleman……..we are going on TEN years since 9/11…….KSM and his ilk are still on hold, eating pizza and ice cream at Gitmo…. and still no trial date yet….Civil trial in NEw York? Military tribunal? Who knows……….

      KSM and his gang should have been terminated after a military tribunal YEARS ago. FDR had non uniformed foreign armed combatants, spies and sabateurs tried and executed without delay.

  • http://foraff.org Pat English

    I'm very pleased that closing Gitmo is not an option and that the prisoners there will be tried in Gitmo rather than coming to the US. If they ended up in the US they would have constitutional rights and lawyers would probably get them all off because they were not mirandized. What was Obama thinking when he decided to close down Gitmo. Is he nuts?

  • Stephen_Brady

    Obama doesn't need Gitmo for the "crisis". I live just 6 miles away from an empty detention facility that could house 450 people, with local National Guardsmen training there … as "guards" … on a regular basis. It is partially visible from the Illinois River.

    And now, Obama will get a ready-made force of the new SS in the military, in the form of "gay" soldiers …

  • K. Bond

    Where is the same mass media now that would quickly stand up and scream George Bush is a liar, every Monday Wednesday and Thursday?

    Now they are silent, never mentioning all the G.D. lies that have spewed frrom Os disgusting gray lipped mouth.

    RE: the mass media: Hipocrisy with a capital F. To hell with the mass media and the Hollywood elite.


  • USMCSniper

    150 former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office on Tuesday. In total, 598 detainees have been transferred out of U.S. custody at Guantanamo. 1 out of every 4, or 25 percent, of these former detainees is now considered a confirmed an active terrorist.