President elect Obama promises that one of his first acts will be to close the US Prison at Guantanamo. His intention is to bring them back to the United States and give them a public trial. What he doesn’t tell you is that public trials will hurt the security of the United States. In a public trial the “discovery” process will force the release of secret information and data collection methods to the defense team. When this was done in previous terrorism trials such as the first trade center bombings, key information was passed along to al -Qaeda, now why would we want to do that again?
GITMO’S BIG HEADACHES FOR BAM
By GORDON CUCULLU
ONE consequence of President-elect Obama and his party’s victory is that the issues that provoked their sharp criticism during the campaign are now about to belong to them. President Bush’s wars will soon be Obama’s, and the question of what to do about the much-maligned detention/interrogation facility at Guantanamo will soon sit upon Obama’s Oval Office desk
Obama sources say that his administration will fulfill its campaign pledge to close the facility. Indeed, an announcement of Guantanamo’s closure may precede his inauguration.
But has Obama allowed himself enough flexibility to deal with new contingencies regarding the Guantanamo detainees?
The majority of the 250 remaining detainees at Guantanamo are hardened jihadists, demonstrated by their behavior to be mortal enemies of the United States. Many detainees have affirmed their desire to continue in the al Qaeda cause and have repeatedly told interrogators that they wish to kill Americans and destroy our system. Leaders such as Khalid Sheik Mohammad cheerfully and publicly have catalogued their actions with great pride. “This blessed hand,” KSM boasted to a military tribunal, “severed the head of the Jew infidel Daniel Pearl.”
Yet Obama advisers are reported to be planning to release some detainees outright and to prosecute others in the US judiciary system. These advisers speak breezily about processing Guantanamo detainees through US courts with the full constitutional rights granted American citizens.
But this may be more challenging than they realize. Given the system’s strict evidentiary requirements and the inability to maintain criminal-court standards on the battlefield, it is entirely possible that committed terrorists may be acquitted. This contingency begs the question of aftermath: Will the courts let freed detainees remain in the country?
The question isn’t frivolous. Recently, federal Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered the release of 17 Uigher detainees – Chinese Islamic minorities who are members of a group on the State Department terrorist list – into the Washington, DC, and Tallahassee, Fla., areas. The government has filed an appeal to stay the release, but the precedent is nearly set. This, in the face of a 94-3 Senate resolution in 2007 that states that detainees “should not be released into American society, nor should they be transferred stateside into facilities in American communities and neighborhoods.”
Further, Obama advisers apparently are seeking to develop a judicial venue for the handling of cases involving highly classified information. Obama adviser Lawrence Tribe described the proposed venue as “some sort of hybrid that involves military commissions that actually administer justice rather than serve as kangaroo courts.”
Yet any new system is certain to become a lightening rod for criticism – much of it from Obama supporters. The ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Lawyers Guild likely won’t be content with any resolution of Guantanamo detainees’ status that doesn’t grant them a blanket release. These groups have been outspoken opponents of Guantanamo since its inception and have consistently proclaimed that the detainees are innocents swept off a chaotic battlefield or sold to US authorities for bounties.
California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff has acknowledged that “there would be concern about establishing a completely new system.” Schiff recognizes that establishing “a regimen of detention that includes American citizens and foreign nationals” and that is located on US soil “would be very difficult.” The issue is so loaded that it would likely split party unity on both sides of the aisle.
While Tribe thinks detainees “can be as securely guarded on US soil as anywhere else,” such a facility would likely become a magnet for terrorist attacks. Over the last few years, multiple attacks – usually involving suicide bombers – have been carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen with the aim of releasing jihadist detainees. The frequency and success of these attacks is a warning that planners ought to heed.
Nor is the possibility of outright escape – to date, not an issue at Guantanamo – something that planners can dismiss. The scenario of committed terrorists loose in America must be considered before planners enact any option.
Studies done on housing the detainees in federal or military prisons such as the facility in Leavenworth, Kan., have met with both infrastructure and community objections. Republican Sen. Sam Brownback and Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda, both of Kansas, express strong reservations about moving Guantanamo detainees to the facility. Community members have protested the prospect. “These people are not ordinary criminals, but terrorists,” one woman told the Chicago Tribune. “They can’t be allowed to be near our town.”
President-elect Obama quickly will be forced to come to terms on an issue fraught with consequences, many unforeseen. However Guantanamo is resolved, some of his key supporters will find it unsatisfactory. But Guantanamo will soon belong to Obama, along with the realization that the resolution of casual campaign promises is rarely as simple as it sounds.
Gordon Cucullu, a former Army lieutenant colonel, is preparing a book on the Guantanamo detention facility.