Obama to close Gitmo, but then what?

posted at 1:30 pm on November 10, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

No matter which candidate won the election, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay for captured terrorists would have closed.  Both Barack Obama and John McCain had pledged to shut down the controversial center, which received a deluge of criticism ever since it opened.  However, now that Obama has won the election, he faces the question that Gitmo’s critics have left unanswered.  How does America prosecute the detainees while maintaining a viable intelligence service?

President-elect Obama’s advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice. …

Under plans being put together in Obama’s camp, some detainees would be released and many others would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts.

A third group of detainees — the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information — might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks. Advisers participating directly in the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t final.

The move would be a sharp deviation from the Bush administration, which established military tribunals to prosecute detainees at the Navy base in Cuba and strongly opposes bringing prisoners to the United States. Obama’s Republican challenger, John McCain, had also pledged to close Guantanamo. But McCain opposed criminal trials, saying the Bush administration’s tribunals should continue on U.S. soil.

This is the conundrum that Congress twice addressed.  They established the military tribunal system during the second Bush term, and the Supreme Court rejected it.  After Democrats won control of Congress, they created another military tribunal system in strained cooperation with the Bush administration, only to have the Supreme Court reject it again.  Instead, the Court placed the federal judiciary in charge of terrorists captured in war zones for the first time in American history, regardless of where the military housed them.

Given that track record, the notion that Congress and the President could create another civil court system to handle the cases seems absurd.  Will the Supreme Court that rejected military tribunals twice allow the creation of a separate-but-somehow-equal civil court system for detainees?  That practically begs the question of where to draw the line for its usage.  Should all foreigners tried for crimes involving national security get processed through such a system, even if arrested in the US?  What’s the difference?  And if so, haven’t we then established a second-class justice system for all non-citizens, and not restricted to those terrorists captured in the field of battle?

Besides, the point of military tribunals was to establish a system that protected American intelligence in the war on terror.  The Supreme Court rejected those restrictions in the military tribunal system.  They’re not likely to sign off on a civil system that adopts the same restrictions.

Even without the obvious security issues of bringing terrorists onto American soil, these questions will continue to haunt the processing of these terrorists.  The Supreme Court left the US in the position of either blowing the cover of intel resources by forcing the government to provide constitutional protections to enemies of the US at war with our nation, or releasing them to plan more attacks.  Either Obama or McCain would have to deal with that ridiculous position, and so far, Obama seems to be pursuing the same basic strategy that the Court rejected twice.

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“Obama to close Gitmo, but then what?”

Duh. Then jihadis will stop killing people for the halibut and we’ll all sing songs in the valley of contentment. Get with the program!

Kevin M on November 10, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Obama/liberals believe that America’s sworn enemies can be treated as (military)criminals. They have prevailed in the 2008 election, so here we go.
Go to Law School young graduate!
Meanwhile we McCain/conservatives believe our “sworn enemies” are plotting America’s death and defeat in the Middle East and the Homeland. When their warriors are killed or captured, different rules should apply. This is war.


williars on November 10, 2008 at 2:43 PM

Bringing Gitmo terrorists to the U.S. is like sending an open invitation for terrorists to begin attacks here.

Mr A on November 10, 2008 at 2:47 PM

Why don’t we put them in one of Obama’s “volunteer” community service groups…that’ll be punishment enough.

Wyznowski on November 10, 2008 at 2:51 PM

Jimmah will get busy building them new Habitats for Humanity, and they will live amongst us as brothers, spreading their wealth.

shaken on November 10, 2008 at 2:56 PM

Citizenship via amnesty.

andycanuck on November 10, 2008 at 2:57 PM

We know that many once thought safe to release Gitmo inmates have joined up to kill American soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan. These guys are dangerous as hell and with all this silly fuss over Gito & reasonable military tribunals our Jihadist enemies must be laughing hard at this circus of ours and I can’t blame them – our leaders are clowns when it comes to war.

Chessplayer on November 10, 2008 at 2:57 PM

How does America prosecute the detainees while maintaining a viable intelligence service?

Traffic court?

Judge “I’m the boss, applesauce” Judy?

Maybe they can sit down with Oprah and Osamabamamessiah and chat.

davidk on November 10, 2008 at 3:00 PM

This isn’t necessarily a big problem for Obama. George Bush was constrained by his morality to be honest and aboveboard. Obama just needs to get the Gitmo detainees out of the public eye, which the media is more than willing to help with, then announce that he’s releasing them back to their countries. At that point, he can go back to the Clinton policy of letting other nations do our dirty work for us, and turn them over to other countries that have no qualms about imprisonment or torture.

He may make a big deal about a show trial or two, but it will just be a distraction. As long as Obama can claim he closed Gitmo, he’ll have what he wants.

tom on November 10, 2008 at 3:08 PM

Remember what the first thing that the terrorist say when captured. “I want to speak to my lawyer.” Never forget that.

Jdripper on November 10, 2008 at 3:08 PM

There is a third alternative. Don’t take any alive.

ProfessorMiao on November 10, 2008 at 3:11 PM

Then, throw them in the ocean in Cuba. Let the sharks eat them! I don’t know what to think anymore. That will be catastrophic. Question to ex or active Military on here.

Do you think the Military will set back and let the Dictator turn our Country into a mess? If they do help us out with Civil duties. Do you think that they will fight for our Freedom? Will the citizens have to do the job? I am just a normal woman. Never been in Military. Just wondering about your thoughts on this.

sheebe on November 10, 2008 at 2:13 PM

The military will of course follow all lawful orders they are given. Unlawful orders are not to be obeyed no matter who gives them.

tom on November 10, 2008 at 3:13 PM

I’d still strongly support putting them in Pelosi’s back yard at Alcatraz. The moonbats in San Fran are the ones who scream the most about this nonsense–let’s see how they feel living next door to the “solution.” But I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Blacklake on November 10, 2008 at 3:15 PM

Well I guess they will be in our courts learning the system so they can take advantage of the 50 strikes your out deal. I am so pissed that they are sending all these guys to the US. Maybe BO can let them all sleep in the White House. Talking about Sleeping with the enemy.

Brat4life on November 10, 2008 at 3:15 PM

Close Gitmo?

Well, then, seems that ALL the internees will be afforded FULL rights under the judiciary of the United States. The rules of court will apply. Most if not all will walk since the rules of “evidence” have been violated…no Miranda warnings, no custody of evidence, the right to challenge their accusers will be enforced…

The entire reason Gitmo was chosen was because, legally, it is part of Cuba, and non-military at Gitmo are subject to Cuban law, but, since Castro took over, the Cubans refuse to “legalize” Gitmo’s status, haven’t cashed a single “rent” check since 1959, thus Gitmo is extra-territorial. No other place like it on Earth.

But that will change once all the detainees are afforded the same legal rights of citizens and legal residents of the United States the minute they step on US soil.

Might as well toss out the Geneva Conventions while we are at it.

coldwarrior on November 10, 2008 at 3:21 PM

Turn ’em loose…turn some loose in the tonier parts of Santa Barbara, West LA, Manhattan, and in Hyde Park in Chicago…give ’em enough to either get a plane ticket home…or to buy explosives…give them a map of the “stars” homes, so to speak….

…and see how the Left likes their darlings being launched into the stratosphere….

Puritan1648 on November 10, 2008 at 3:30 PM

So I guess we can expect our ever expanding array of lib judges to release all these a-wipes on technicalities. GREAT idea.

Canada is looking really good right about now.

ErinF on November 10, 2008 at 2:02 PM

You’ve got to be kidding! In Canada, they would all be eligible to petition for refugee status and they would get it because they might be tortured if they were sent home! One of the guys who shot up the El Al desk at Athens airport in the 1970s entered Canada illegally 15 years ago, and he’s been allowed to stay because if he were sent back to the Palestinian territories where he came from, “Israel would probably torture him”.

ProfessorMiao on November 10, 2008 at 3:31 PM

Probably what will happen is that Bill and Bernie Ayers will adopt them all and move them to Chicago. I expect that well paying jobs could be found for all of them as community organizers or ACORN operatives

el rey on November 10, 2008 at 4:04 PM

Lawyers running a war……………

……………. This should be good.

Say goodbye to the United States of America people…….

“…….So Long and Thanks for all the Fish”

Seven Percent Solution on November 10, 2008 at 4:06 PM

Come on, terrorists tried in criminal courts in the U.S……….What could go wrong?

*nervous chuckle*

ThePrez on November 10, 2008 at 4:15 PM

Trinity Church with the rest of the American hating, racists.

Hening on November 10, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Move them to Chicago. Maybe the Gitmo detainees will all get shot. Game over.

HornetSting on November 10, 2008 at 4:28 PM

There is another option, for the future at least: change the rules of engagement to kill any enemy combatants. If we don’t take prisoners then we don’t have to process them. We can include it as part of our global warming emissions – ensuring our enemies are carbon neutral.

I’m only partially joking with this post – but also wanted to bring up the point that this not only raises important questions about what to do with the current prisoners we have but what should are operational strategy on the ground be from here on out if capturing most anyone is an act of futility?

gwelf on November 10, 2008 at 4:29 PM

The days of happy endings are over. By a longshot. Way the sam hill over.

Griz on November 10, 2008 at 4:30 PM

I don’t think that this will be much of a problem for the incoming administration. They will eventually process the terrorists through the regular federal court system. There are procedures for the courts to handle classified information, though in many cases the government will probably drop prosecutions and release the prisoners rather than risk compromise of sources and methods to lock up low-level terrorists for a few years.

I doubt the America public will care very much. The public has lost interest and won’t regain interest until the next major terrorist attack on US soil.

dirc on November 10, 2008 at 4:31 PM

Give them political asylum and let them live in the same South Boston project as Aunt Zeituni.

Travis Bickle on November 10, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Someday soon the DoD will issue a requirement for construction of a military style prison/detainment facility to hold unlawful enemy combatants since Obummer wants to close a perfectly good facility in Guantanamo bay…Oh, I don’t know. 500 million ought to do it!

Nozzle on November 10, 2008 at 4:49 PM

Like I’ve said repeatedly release the Guantanameros to work in the SCOTUS building. Show the country what patriots our Justices are.

eaglewingz08 on November 10, 2008 at 5:20 PM

I haven’t read the thread. Can anyone think of another use for this new court system he wants to create?

I smell tyranny.

baldilocks on November 10, 2008 at 5:23 PM

Will the Supreme Court that rejected military tribunals twice allow the creation of a separate-but-somehow-equal civil court system for detainees?

Give or take a few new SCJs, yes.

baldilocks on November 10, 2008 at 5:25 PM

Over/under on how many of these guys will get a US jury to release them simply because they weren’t Mirandized on the battlefield?

eeyore on November 10, 2008 at 5:39 PM

Obama is an idiot.

The detainees at Gitmo are prisoners of war, not domestic criminals. Those terrorists are treated so well in our hands that they’d certainly prefer the treatment they get in Gitmo to anything in their native countries.

Why the hell do they want to close the center anyway? You’d think Obama would just want to expand it, for American political prisoners!

Sign of the Dollar on November 10, 2008 at 5:55 PM

Close Gitmo?

Oh, that’s a FINE idea!!! We haven’t been hit since 9/11, but let’s just ship a whole crapload of terrorists here, incarcerate them smack dab in the middle of the United States – and THEN see what their buds will do to get them out?

uncivilized on November 10, 2008 at 6:00 PM

…will be purchasing ammunition in great quantities…first, because it will probably be made illegal by this time next year, and second, because if The One won’t protect my family from terrorists, I’ll do it myself.

uncivilized on November 10, 2008 at 6:02 PM

Yeah, right. Things are just a little bit different when you have to find solutions rather than just shoot your mouth off.

Well, I guess they could turn them loose and then hunt them down and shoot them. That is probably legal.

Terrye on November 10, 2008 at 6:08 PM

Let’s move them in with the Obummer’s ex pastor–they can help out Reverend Wright with his next sermons / agendas. Bill Ayers can stop by and give them pointers on how to properly arm pipe bombs in the basement. Next stop–orbit!

John Bibb

rocketman on November 10, 2008 at 7:03 PM

More and more, as we see in blog reportage, terrorists seem to be “meeting their maker” rather than be captured. Wonder why? Take. No. Prisoners. If we do capture them, these killers will eventually be freed by our courts to kill us in our own neighborhoods. Let’s not be stuck on stupid.

marybel on November 10, 2008 at 7:04 PM

Shoot them, as should have been done immediately with all such prisoners under the Geneva Conventions, since they are technically “spies, saboteurs and terrorists“, for being out of uniform, and not fighting legitimately for a nation, and thus are subject to field tribunals and immediate execution.

It was our excess of decency that bothered to spare them.

But, rather than endanger our land, they should finally get the fatal justice they first deserved.

And then close Gitmo’s prison… because no more illegal enemy combatants will be captured or sent anywhere… thanks to the hysterical political machinations of the seditious opposition and the un-Constitutional over-reaching of the suicidally-naive Supreme Court.

Who have joined together to force us to take no prisoners for our own future security.

profitsbeard on November 10, 2008 at 7:37 PM

We should definitely shut down GITMO; the widespread international condemnation that we have received for operating this international prison camp has completely botched our international image. I do understand the importance of Gitmo but there has to be an alternative. Either way McCain would have shut Gitmo himself, even though he didn’t come out swinging against it. Gitmo is an embarrassment. And yea please don’t come out swinging calling me the nastiest word in the English language, ‘Liberal’. I am a proud conservative and I beg to differ with you guys on this point.

jacobnyc on November 10, 2008 at 2:27 PM

But, why should our Country, The Greatest worry about what other Countries say and do? Look at how their Countries are. I don’t worry about that. I don’t care about what other Countries say or think about US. That is cowing down to the Liberal’s point of view. I won’t do that. Gitmo is very plush place. They get very well taken care of. My cousin was stationed there for a while. Things happen, and war is not pretty.

sheebe on November 10, 2008 at 7:48 PM

The military will of course follow all lawful orders they are given. Unlawful orders are not to be obeyed no matter who gives them.

tom on November 10, 2008 at 3:13 PM
Cool tom thank you

sheebe on November 10, 2008 at 9:01 PM

Line them all up in the yard and open fire.

ic1redeye on November 10, 2008 at 11:05 PM

Move them to Chicago. Maybe the Gitmo detainees will all get shot. Game over.

Or drop them in Phillie wearing McCain/Palin tee-shirts.

andycanuck on November 11, 2008 at 12:10 AM

Shot while escaping? Big leak in the transport ship? Mysterious fatal disease epidemic? Airliner crash at sea?

If the government is good enough to crash planes into the World Trade Center, it should be easy to get rid of a few individuals that nobody really wants around. /s

gordo on November 11, 2008 at 9:39 AM