Close Gitmo? Harder than you think

posted at 1:20 pm on November 25, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Thomas Jocelyn provides an excellent analysis of the effort pledged by Barack Obama to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Obama has reiterated his promise to shutter Gitmo since the election, but he may find that more difficult than he thinks.  More importantly, Obama hasn’t offered much of a vision as to how he’ll handle future high-value detainees:

The new administration will soon discover from its review of the Guantánamo files what motivated its predecessor: The scope of the terrorist threat was far greater than anyone knew on September 11, 2001. But for the Bush administration’s efforts, many more Americans surely would have perished.

This conclusion is based on a careful review of the thousands of pages of documents released from Guantánamo, as well as other publicly available evidence. In 2006, the Department of Defense began to release the documents to the public via its website. The files had been created during the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) and Administrative Review Board (ARB) hearings held for nearly 600 detainees. This unclassified cache includes both the government’s allegations against each detainee and summarized transcripts of the detainees’ testimony. Although the documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Associated Press, the intelligence contained in the files was largely ignored by the mainstream press for more than two years. Thus, the New York Times reported only the day before the recent presidential election that the files contain “sobering intelligence claims against many of the remaining detainees.” …

The most dangerous men currently incarcerated at Guantánamo are the 14 “high value” detainees. The Bush administration gave them this designation because they are uniquely lethal, having planned and participated in the most devastating terrorist attacks in history. Their collective dossier includes, among other attacks, 9/11, the American embassy bombings (August 7, 1998), the USS Cole bombing (October 12, 2000), and the Bali bombings (October 12, 2002). They are responsible for murdering thousands of civilians around the globe, from the eastern United States to Southeast Asia. Had they not been captured, they surely would have murdered thousands more.

The 14 were originally held not at Guantánamo, but at even more controversial black sites. And the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that have sparked international outrage were principally designed for them. One may doubt the necessity and morality of these techniques, including waterboarding, while still recognizing a fundamentally important point: The 14 high value detainees are not ordinary criminals, but perpetrators of an entirely different order of evil.

It is because of these men, in particular, that the Bush administration initiated the preventive detention regime of which Guantánamo is a part. Processing them as mere lawbreakers would not have advanced the war on terror. To read them their rights and provide them lawyers would have been to throw away their intelligence value. It would have allowed them to carry to the grave many details of still active terrorist plots. The Bush administration chose a different route-harsh interrogations designed to ferret out al Qaeda’s current operations before it was too late to stop them or capture those involved.

Obama wants a return to the pre-9/11 process of simply arresting and trying terrorists in federal courts.  That did nothing to end the threat against the US, as a series of attacks abroad proved long before 9/11.  On the other hand, as Joscelyn reports, the aggressive, war-modeled approach used by the Bush administration led to the unraveling of many plots, some almost ready to launch.  Los Angeles had been targeted in a follow-up mission by al-Qaeda after 9/11, and the Bush administration’s interrogations uncovered the plot and the plotters, ending the threat.

The trial of the WTC I plotters after the 1993 terrorist attack did not prevent WTC II on 9/11.  This is what was meant by the September 10th mentality.  Treating terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh the same as armed robbers not only ignores their real threat but also keeps the government from gaining the kind of intelligence against their networks that keeps Americans from being killed by the thousands.

The current high-value detainees probably have little intel value now, and their handling matters less than how we treat those who follow them.  If we go back to the pre-9/11 approach and process them through the civil courts, we’ll pad our conviction rates and remain blind to the threats amassing against us.  Obama may close Gitmo, but in the end, he’ll need to create another mechanism to do what Gitmo did for national security or wind up dropping the ball against the real threats we still face.


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The World WILL LOVE US when BO becomes president. He can close Gitmo.

BroncosRock on November 25, 2008 at 1:26 PM

or wind up dropping the ball against the real threats we still face.

This is what will happen.

Marine_Bio on November 25, 2008 at 1:32 PM

wind up dropping the ball against the real threats we still face.

You can’t hunble the United States before the “world community” by agressively confronting terrorism. The way to hunble America is to allow thousand s more Americans to die and thus win the love of our European betters.

johnsteele on November 25, 2008 at 1:35 PM

“As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions” – Barack Obama, 8/1/07

But for the Bush administration’s efforts, many more Americans surely would have perished.

To read them their rights and provide them lawyers would have been to throw away their intelligence value. It would have allowed them to carry to the grave many details of still active terrorist plots.

“Mark my words,” the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.

We’ll see if Obama will have blood on his hands if there is another terrorist attack on the US.

wise_man on November 25, 2008 at 1:36 PM

And all this time we thought setting a time for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq would embolden our enemies.

AubieJon on November 25, 2008 at 1:37 PM

Obama and his fellow Democrats fuck this up, and there is another major terrorist attack, they can kiss their asses goodbye in 2012.

GarandFan on November 25, 2008 at 1:38 PM

Isn’t it amazing how easily a campaign promise can be made when one is ignorant of the facts? I suggest he just vote “Present” on this one.

a capella on November 25, 2008 at 1:41 PM

But for the Bush administration’s efforts, many more Americans surely would have perished.

And yet all that was ever reported was what a dunce he was. He is a damn fine president, just wish he would have reigned in government spending a little.

Tommy_G on November 25, 2008 at 1:45 PM

The way to humble America is to allow thousands more Americans to die and thus win the love of our European betters.

johnsteele on November 25, 2008 at 1:35 PM

On the upside, there won’t be a Democrat elected president for about fifty years.

Kafir on November 25, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Better off making these vermin disappear off the books after interrogating them…

sladenyv on November 25, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Los Angeles had been targeted in a follow-up mission by al-Qaeda after 9/11, and the Bush administration’s interrogations uncovered the plot and the plotters, ending the threat.

these things should be more widely known

jp on November 25, 2008 at 1:48 PM

He probably shut down the gitmo site for PR purpose , but reopen something similar elsewhere.

the_nile on November 25, 2008 at 1:50 PM

Truthfully, closing the detention facility is the easy part. As the article points out, the process and procedures for future detainees is the thornier aspect that Obama hasn’t talked about much. He’ll make a great show of closing down the facility but we need to keep our eye on the ball and ensure that Jamie Gorelick and her crowd don’t set up the circumstances where they can kill another 3,000 Americans.

highhopes on November 25, 2008 at 1:53 PM

If Iraq stays peaceful and Afghanistan turns around, and if there is an attack here at home during Obama’s administration, look for Petraeus to get drafted in 2012. We’ll be more dependant on foreign oil than we are today, so that’s puts Palin in a good spot as well.

Palin/Petraeus or the other way around. You heard it here first.

BadgerHawk on November 25, 2008 at 1:56 PM

And all this time we thought setting a time for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq would embolden our enemies.

AubieJon on November 25, 2008 at 1:37 PM

If there was a point being made I missed it. Could you dumb it down a bit more?

DarkCurrent on November 25, 2008 at 1:56 PM

Los Angeles had been targeted in a follow-up mission by al-Qaeda after 9/11,

What a pity the Hollywood crowd doesn’t realize how Bush saved their whiney liberal hineys.

katiejane on November 25, 2008 at 1:57 PM

Step 1 Give the detainees a ‘knock out’ substance

Step 2 Give the detainees a scar on the order of an appendix scar

Step 3 Release the detainees

Step 4 ‘Leak’ to the newsies info about the devilishly clever tracking devices installed in the former detainees

fargo_pete on November 25, 2008 at 1:57 PM

Step 1.5 Surgically implant a devishly clever tracking device into the former detainee. Being sure not to forget the self destruct option on said device.

rayvet on November 25, 2008 at 2:19 PM

DarkCurrent on November 25, 2008 at 1:56 PM

I was trying to state that our enemies have been emboldened by the outcome of this past election. I know I didn’t communicate it very well. I’m one of 2 people here in my building and I’m bored silly.

AubieJon on November 25, 2008 at 2:28 PM

As readers here likely know, they have released to Yemen OBL’s “taxi driver,” Hamdan. For those who never bothered to read what Hamdan did, here are a few key points about him: he began driving for OBL in 1995; was sent wife shopping back in Yemen in 1996 before rejoining OBL in Afghanistan; he was the one who took the news of the successful attacks on our embassies to OBL in 1998; our intel folks have at least one photo of him, armed with an AK, standing close to OBL; and when he was captured in Afghanistan at a U.S. checkpoint, the car he was driving had two anti-aircraft weapons in the trunk and introduction papers for Hamdan with writing on the back indicating he had been trained in terrorist cell communications. Despite all that evidence at his trial, the jury gave him but 5 1/2 years and the judge made all his Gitmo time timed already served. Had he instead been caught at a NYPD checkpoint in Manhattan in November 2001 with that evidence, Hamdan would now be doing a long stretch in Colorado’s Super Max.

While I do not agree with closing Gitmo, these military commissions are not the same as those that prosecuted more than 1,100 during WWII (89% conviction rate). Unlike those, these MCA public trials, with a current military justice system riddled with liberal lawyers and a few outright traitors, precludes the heavy use of classified intelligence as evidence. In view of that, I support Andrew McCarthy’s concept of National Security courts (see the National Review Online).

Sergeant Tim on November 25, 2008 at 2:38 PM

More importantly, Obama hasn’t offered much of a vision as to how he’ll handle future high-value detainees

Of course he has. Obama has said that he’ll close Gitmo, and he’s never said that he’ll do anything else regarding the matter.

Which part of that is too complicated for you to understand?

If it makes you happy to imagine that there’s some sort of magical secret plan in the works, more power to you. But don’t blame Barak Obama for the fact that you’re a bit fuzzy on the details.

He’s the most articulate man in the world, remember? What we heard is EXACTLY what we’re going to get.

logis on November 25, 2008 at 2:54 PM

We have nothing to worry about. Obama will make them wear ankle bracelets and report to a parole officer at least once twice a month.

Cicero43 on November 25, 2008 at 3:04 PM

Obama and his fellow Democrats fuck this up, and there is another major terrorist attack, they can kiss their asses goodbye in 2012.

GarandFan on November 25, 2008 at 1:38 PM

What makes you think their asses will be safe til 2012? They are going to be history 2 months after the next terrorist attack on a scale of 9-11. The riots afterwards will make Watts look like a playground brawl. After the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans in a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack, there is no way an Obama administration will survive if they are allowed to free the GITMO cretins and give rights to terrorists that prevent stopping a nother 9-11 attack. Martial law won’t stop it. Lawsuits won’t stop it. And nothing he can do except lead by the example given by Bush will suffice BEFORE an attack occurs, that might prevent his impeachment, his trial, and likely, his imprisonment for incompetence or neglect in the deaths of hundreds of thousands or even millions of Americans.

With those stakes, do you really think a “we’ll git ‘em” speech, after he freed them, will appease the mob?

You don’t know frontier justice like I do then.

Subsunk

Subsunk on November 25, 2008 at 3:08 PM

Los Angeles had been targeted in a follow-up mission by al-Qaeda after 9/11, and the Bush administration’s interrogations uncovered the plot and the plotters, ending the threat.

these things should be more widely known

jp on November 25, 2008 at 1:48 PM

Agreed. Why on earth Bush didn’t make a prime time address to the nation on this is a source of complete bafflement to me. Then again, this administration has been it’s own worst enemy in the communications department.
Rely on the MSM? How naive. The Bushies really dropped the ball on stuff like this.

Bruno Strozek on November 25, 2008 at 3:26 PM

GarandFan,
“Obama and his fellow Democrats fuck this up, and there is another major terrorist attack, they can kiss their asses goodbye in 2012.”

Which is why I think they will end up being pretty similar to the Bush admin on these issues.

exhelodrvr on November 25, 2008 at 3:41 PM

Yep, its easy to criticize. Hell, Bush-bashing is fun, too. Now, actually being responsible for something… Sometimes it pays to think before you open your big, fat mouth – not easy for some folks. Let’s see how Obama proposes to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy with a program of total capitulation.

littleguy on November 25, 2008 at 4:02 PM

Simply put, Barry must choose who he’d rather face in 2012: those who will be disappointed he didn’t close Gitmo, or those who will blame him for the terrorist attack on American soil.

fiscallyconservative on November 25, 2008 at 4:52 PM

President Bush: Are they away?

Condi Rice: They’ve just made the jump into hyperspace.

President Bush: You’re sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship? I’m taking an awful risk, Condi. This had better work.

KillerKane on November 25, 2008 at 6:01 PM

Simply put, Barry must choose who he’d rather face in 2012: those who will be disappointed he didn’t close Gitmo, or those who will blame him for the terrorist attack on American soil.

fiscallyconservative on November 25, 2008 at 4:52 PM

Very true!
I must say, if BHO lets them all loose, we’ll be attacked and in 2012 the terrorists will be reaquainted with the phrase “Don’t Mess With The U.S.!”

Wilberforce_chick on November 25, 2008 at 11:00 PM