The ACLU may have finally won its long-running battle to free terrorists from Gitmo:

Behind last week’s statement by President George W Bush that he would “very much like to end Guantanamo”, intensive negotiations have been going on to repatriate prisoners, according to a British human rights lawyer.

Clive Stafford-Smith, legal director of Reprieve, the prisoners’ rights group, and who represents 40 detainees, said that in March he had been taken to lunch in London by an official at the US State Department and spent it “talking through how to close Guantanamo”.

Why?

Thwarted in its attempt to keep terrorist suspects out of the American courts, and sobered by the realisation that few detainees out of a total of 485 can be brought before a military tribunal, the Bush government is seeking a way out.

Judges have effectively taken over the war. Back in late 2001, the hawks in the administration lost out to the Justice Department over what to do with Zacarias Moussaoui. The hawks wanted him treated as an enemy combatant and tried by a military tribunal. Their argument was straightforward: Moussaoui wasn’t a US citizen, and was demonstrably a member of al Qaeda, which had been waging a terrorist war against the US for years. Therefore, he was an enemy combatant and should be tried outside civilian courts. The Justice (and State iirc) departments wanted him tried in civilian court. They won the argument. And look where we are. We have set precedent after precedent trying al Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts, and judicial rulings have made it nearly impossible to treat them in any other way. That these terrorists aren’t citizens of the US seems to matter not at all; they’re being given de facto citizenship by gaining access to the same courts and rules citizens would be tried in.

Fwiw, prior to 9-11 risk-averse and negative publicity-averse lawyers (as opposed to experienced intel and counterintel officers) essentially ran our intelligence and counterterrorist operations. Now judges are running the war post 9-11. We know where the lawyers got us. It’s hard to see the judges getting us anywhere that would be an improvement.

But this Gitmo story gets even worse.

Washington has been soliciting advice on how to rehabilitate detainees who might otherwise rejoin the jihad if freed. One of those consulted, Rohan Gunaratna, the author of Inside Al-Qaeda, said: “The Americans are now seriously thinking of rehabilitation.”

That’s foolish. Dangerously foolish. They’re jihadis. If you free them, they’re going to end up right back where they became jihadis, and the vast majority will become jihadis again. We’re going to be playing catch and release with dangerous terrorists for decades to come.

UPDATE: Thought I’d poke around Reprieve’s web site. That’s the British “human rights” outfit to which the lawyer quoted in this story belongs. Interestingly, in a world in which Cuba, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Russia, Venezuela and scores of other countries hold bona fide political prisoners and execute them routinely for various crimes against the state that would be protected by the First Amendment if they occurred here, Reprieve focuses most of its work on the USA. That’s not a surprise, but it is a tell. A real human rights group would pick on several dozen other governments before criticizing the US. You want to know something else about Reprieve that’s not a surprise? One of its big supporters is none other than George Soros.