December 30, 2008


Inmates' fate unclear if Obama closes Gitmo (Alan Gomez, 12/29/08, USA TODAY)

President-elect Barack Obama vowed on the campaign trail to shut down the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But he never said what he would do with the prisoners there.

What to do with the 250 alleged foreign terrorists at the Cuba prison is the real question facing Obama, experts say.

Terrorism experts and two recent analyses of unclassified information on the prison population indicate the men who remain there are either committed, highly skilled al-Qaeda operatives too dangerous to ever free, or Islamists whose native countries would do little to prevent them from rejoining the jihad. [...]

A review by the Brookings Institution found that some of the "Gitmo 110" are eligible for release but have not been freed because their countries of origin are sympathetic to their cause.

Hundreds of detainees have been released to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan because the United States has good relationships with those countries and can trust that they will monitor the released detainees responsibly, said Benjamin Wittes, co-author of Brookings' report.

That has left Guantanamo with a disproportionately high number of lower-risk detainees from Yemen, which has not policed its population and serves as an easy gateway for terrorists into Iraq, Wittes said.

Wittes cautioned that these men are far from harmless, describing them as "quite committed."

While the Obama transition team did not return e-mails seeking comment, the Pentagon says shutting down Guantanamo means only that another facility must be found. [...]

Each detainee is given an initial review by a military tribunal to determine whether they're an enemy combatant to be held until cessation of hostilities in the current war on terror. The combatant then receives an annual review to determine whether he is no longer considered a danger and is eligible for release.

Retired Army major general John Altenburg, who once oversaw the Guantanamo cases for the Pentagon, said those reviews are "unprecedented" in war.

"In any other country, in any other place, they wouldn't be bothering to make that determination," Altenburg said. "They would just say, 'We've detained them legally and we can hold them.' "

Strange how issues that were so cut and dry when Bushitler was raping the Constitution are suddenly so complex....

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 30, 2008 6:50 PM
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