One reason Republicans are upset about the Taliban swap is that aside from the safety issue and the violation of the law, this could set the precedent that Obama needs to shut down Gitmo.
Let’s recall the real reason why Obama went after Osama.
Obama saw an opportunity to resurrect the idea of a criminal trial, which Attorney General Eric Holder had planned for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
This time, the president tells Bowden, he was prepared to bring bin Laden back and put him on trial in a federal court. “We worked through the legal and political issues that would have been involved, and Congress and the desire to send him to Guantánamo, and to not try him, and Article III.” Obama continues:
“I mean, we had worked through a whole bunch of those scenarios. But, frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr.”
Obama released five Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Saturday without consulting Congress and without strict assurances that the militants won’t somehow return to the fight. Republicans on Capitol Hill worry that the swap of these Taliban leaders for American hostage Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a prelude to a bigger move—the emptying out of Guantanamo entirely.
“This whole deal may have been a test to see how far the administration can actually push it, and if Congress doesn’t fight back they will feel more empowered to move forward with additional transfers,” said one senior GOP senate aide close to the issue. “They’ve lined up all the dominoes to be able to move a lot more detainees out of Guantanamo and this could be just the beginning.”
Now there’s growing concern on Capitol Hill that President Obama now intends to bypass Congress to fulfill his promise to close the prison by releasing scores of more Guantanamo prisoners with little public or even private debate. Lawmakers and staffers see the Bergdahl case as only the latest maneuver in a larger plan to cut Congress out of the Guantanamo issue; and they’re not exactly reassured by senior administration officials’ refusal to disclose what steps will be taken to mitigate the risk that these prisoners could become involved again in the Afghan insurgency.
Obama has bypassed Congress numerous times and is making up his own laws. He’s running a unilateral amnesty. Compared to that closing Gitmo is easy.
There’s no chance Congress will pass an appropriations bill this year, meaning Congress can’t remove the funding for transfers. That gives Obama plenty of time to use the current looseness of the law to push forward the releases of many more prisoners.
Or all of them.
I expect there will be a speech, the usual nauseating stuff in which Obama pretends to speak about “our values”, some mention of a new chapter and they’ll be on their way to civilian courts and/or Qatar.