Say, anyone have any idea how to handle a captured terrorist? Apparently not anyone in the White House, even after more than two years of running the war on terror, according to Vice Admiral William McRaven’s confidence-builder in yesterday’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. While Leon Panetta told Congress a few months ago that the Obama administration had a process figured out, they seem to have kept it from the people doing the capturing:
The top military official involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden said Tuesday that the Obama administration has no clear plan for handling terrorist leaders if they are caught alive outside a war zone.
Vice Adm. William H. McRaven told a Senate panel that contingency plans for detaining terrorism suspects are developed on an ad hoc basis and approved by the White House, but that there are no set rules. “That is always a difficult issue for us,” he testified. “No two cases seem to be alike.”
Panetta said earlier this year that if the US captured Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the terrorist masterminds would likely be taken to Guantanamo Bay. That’s news to McRaven, who told Senator Kelly Ayotte that Gitmo is still “off the table.” Rendition is off the table, too, at least not to the countries most likely to have originated the terrorists — Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — because of “political resistance.”
So what do we end up doing? Oh, you’ll love this plan, emphases mine:
In response to senators’ questions, McRaven said that “in many cases” prisoners captured in secret operations by Navy SEALs or the Army’s Delta Force are taken to a U.S. Navy ship until they can be tried in a U.S. court or transferred to the custody of an allied country. But if neither option turns out to be feasible, the prisoner is ultimately let go, he said.
“If we can’t do either one of those, then we will release that individual,” McRaven said in response to a question from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “I mean, that becomes the unenviable option, but it is an option.”
And so we get to the back-door plan to close Gitmo and end military commissions for captured terrorists. If the Obama administration can’t try a terrorist in criminal court, it just lets the terrorist go rather than use the military commission system created and authorized by Congress to deal with them. Who cares if the terrorist goes on to kill Americans? Hey, at least we didn’t use that awful Gitmo — the one we’re still using, and that Panetta thought was good enough for bin Laden and Zawahiri just four months ago.
Perhaps the Senate can get more information on the Terrorist Catch and Release Plan. How many times have we had to use the “unenviable option” already? Has any of the released terrorists conducted any attacks afterward? Did we lose any Americans in capturing released terrorists? When exactly did the war on terror transform into a sport-fishing expedition?