Guantanamo East=Not Change
Robert Gates lets the cat out of the bag by acknowledging that up to 100 Guantanamo detainees could be held on US soil once the prison camp closes. What shocked me is that he acknowledged that these would be detainees who remain in a legal limbo, without an awaiting trial but without a release. That represents no difference from keeping Gitmo open. The problem was not the location, but the indefinite detention going on there.
Mr. Gates said discussions had started this week with the Justice Department about determining how many of the Guantánamo detainees could not be sent to other countries or tried in courts. He did not say which detainees might be in that group, but independent experts have said it probably would include terrorism suspects whom the military has not yet brought charges against, among them detainees from Yemen and the Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah, who was subjected to brutal interrogation in secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency.
“What do we do with the 50 to 100 — probably in that ballpark — who we cannot release and cannot try?” Mr. Gates said in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
He did not say whether the detainees would be imprisoned temporarily or indefinitely or under what law they would be held. The Obama administration is debating how to establish a legal basis for incarcerating detainees deemed too dangerous to be released but not appropriate to be tried because of potential problems posed by their harsh interrogations, the evidence against them or other issues.
Eric Holder gave a slightly better answer while in Berlin, saying “We have to determine what would be our basis for holding that person that would to the world appear to be fair and that would in fact be fair... How could you ensure that due process was being served by the detention of such a person?” In addition, Holder appeared to be making headway on releasing some detainees in Europe, as countries seem willing to accept them. Similarly, Gates did defend the expected action of the United States settling the 17 Uighurs whose life has been a nightmare, cleared for release from Guantanamo but unable to return to China for fear of persecution. But the idea that we would continue indefinite detentions on anyone truly worries me. Here's Sharon Franklin of The Constitution Project:
"If the United States were to simply move the detainees onto U.S. soil and continue to detain them without charge or legal process, then the act of closing Guantanamo would have been meaningless," said Sharon Bradford Franklin, a lawyer for the Constitution Project, an advocacy group.
As for the Congressional NIMBYs who don't want to see detainees imprisoned in their districts, they might want to appropriate more money for their prisons, then, if they find them so insecure. Ali al-Marri, a legal resident who was held without charges at a Navy brig for five years before being charged through the criminal justice system, just pleaded guilty to conspiring with Al Qaeda operatives, and will spend 15 years in prison at a minimum. Should Illinois lawmakers be wary of his entry into jail? Should they want to offshore him? How about a carjacker? How far does this go? Saying that dangerous terrorists shouldn't be allowed in the jails equals saying that jails in America aren't secure. Is that the message they want to send?