Sunday, January 16, 2011

Approximately 50 Guantanamo detainees have been released since Obama became president, a mere 1/10 the number that had been freed by Bush

What began with a bang ended with a whimper
writes The Washington Times.
Closing the so-called "American Gulag" at Guantanamo was one of Mr. Obama's signature issues during the 2008 campaign and was part of his general moral indictment of the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Obama underscored the symbolic importance of the issue when - as one of his first acts in office - he signed an executive order pledging to close the facility within a year.

Two years later, most of the detainees are still where they were in 2009. Approximately 50 have been released since Mr. Obama became president, a mere one-tenth the number that had been freed by President Bush. During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama's partisans conjured images of detainees as innocent people caught up in the dragnet, humble goatherds or old men languishing behind fences wanting only to return to their homes. In reality, those still being held are hardened terrorists whose release would place the country in danger.

…Guantanamo Bay was chosen because it is a legal gray area, first used by President Clinton's administration to hold Cuban and Haitian refugees in legal limbo. Moving detainees into the U.S. federal courts ran into a variety of roadblocks, mostly uncertainties about whether bad actors could be convicted. Transforming terrorist detainees into regular criminals would result in scores of costly trials in which prosecutors would face barrages of questions regarding how the defendants were apprehended, how evidence was collected (in many cases through classified means that the government would not want revealed in court), and the way they were interrogated (or "tortured," according to Mr. Obama).

…President Obama may one day realize that the Bush administration's approach was not as cavalier as he had charged. The Bush team crafted a strategy intended to gain maximum intelligence advantage from detainees without facing the complexities that would accompany hundreds of trials and - in the best case - would result in the terrorists being sent to jail, which functionally had been accomplished already. Mr. Obama's failure to meet his pledged year-long deadline was a triumph of common sense over political symbolism and has made the president the object of the same vitriol he hurled at his predecessor. He should have left well enough alone at Gitmo.