One of the key assets to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is its remote location. There are no roads to Gitmo, only sea and air passages that are heavily guarded by the US military. It isolates terrorist detainees in such a secure fashion as to keep them from communicating with outsiders without strict controls, and it keeps outsiders from crowding into the area and interfering with operations designed to keep the most dangerous terrorists captured in the war on terror secure and harmless.
So why not invite their families to drop in from time to time?
The Pentagon is considering allowing the families of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to visit them, an unprecedented step to ease the isolation of inmates who in some cases have been held at the U.S. facility for close to a decade, according to congressional aides.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which monitors conditions at the military prison in Cuba and facilitates videoconferences between detainees and their families, has been in serious discussions with the Pentagon about a visitation program, the aides said.
On one hand, as the Washington Post points out, this may be good news. If the Obama administration thought they could get Gitmo closed in the near- to mid-term future, they probably wouldn’t bother evaluating such a proposal. The lower-risk detainees would get sent home, where family visits would either be unnecessary or someone else’s problem, while the high-risk detainees (like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for instance) would get sent to the US, where their families wouldn’t be allowed anyway.
On the other hand, Gitmo isn’t a civil prison. It’s a military detention facility that holds enemies of the United States. While we are obligated to treat them humanely, we are not obligated to set up visitation schedules and access to American military bases for their relatives. The Post reports that the idea would be to ask another country to stage the visitors, but who would that be? Does Mexico want families of jihadis gaining access to their country, and considering the state of security along our southern border, would we want that either? Other choices would be Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and, er, Venezuela, among others.
Republicans are now proposing to add a rider to the defense budget authorization that would prevent any money from being spent on Gitmo Visitor Days. If we can’t get common sense to prevail, then let’s make sure we don’t spend a cent on this silly idea.