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Where's the Backbone on Gitmo?

"Saturday Night Live" mocked President Obama over the weekend for, among other things, failing to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay even though he promised to do so on his first day in office. But the real comedy is in the utter lack of spine Congress has shown as the president has tried to take action.

Another episode in that farce occurred Tuesday, when the Senate approved a massive defense spending bill -- with a provision barring the transfer of Gitmo detainees to the United States. The ban passed 93-7, similar numbers to an amendment that stripped funds for closing the facility from a supplemental appropriations bill in May, both with the support of senators who have called for the prison's closure.

The opposition to the transfer of detainees is beyond irrational. It hinges on a bizarre fear of terrorists somehow suddenly showing up in Americans’ “back yards,” which only makes sense if you are a resident of a federal Supermax prison. Indeed, Republican opponents are worried about, of all things, a prison break. No wonder Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday couldn’t help but express his exasperation:

"The restrictions that we've had to deal with on the Hill give me great concern," said Holder, disputing the claim, made often by Republican lawmakers, that Guantanamo detainees are simply too dangerous to be brought to U.S. soil.
"I don't see how that in fact is accurate," he said. "One of the things we're going to have to do is to come up with a facility here in the United States to house people for trials that would be held here.…
"You can go through a litany of very, very dangerous people who are safely housed in facilities that pose no dangers to the communities that surround them," he said "I think we have a good track record."

The union that represents the prison guards at the Supermax facility in Florence, Col., which already houses more than 30 terrorists and, by the way, has never had a prisoner escape, should complain that Congress is unfairly maligning its members’ competence.

In its version of the legislation, the House also added restrictions on Guantanamo transfers but didn’t ban them entirely. Except last week, the House approved a motion that, among other things, calls for restrictions as tough as the Senate’s in the Department of Homeland Security budget bill. Political spine, it seems, is nowhere in sight of Capitol Hill.

By Stephen Stromberg  | October 7, 2009; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Comments

My concern is not one of physical security but of legal precess. I am certain that once these detainees hit the ground in the US their attorneys will be heading to court to gain their release. This may be a realistic scenario since many of the ones being transferred cannot be tried due to the lack of evidence that would meet the standards of US court. Once they arrive in the US they will be afforded the full range of legal protections given to anyone else. This will be an even bigger dilemma, for if the courts order them released, released to where? No one else wants them and US law says they can't be sent to a coumtry where they could be harmed. So I guess the streets of America will have to welcome them. Congress is reflecting the will of the people and saying, in essence, to the Obama administration - keep them where they are and let the world keep it's opinion to themselves. Afeter all the very Europeans and others who critize Guantanamo Bay don't want these terrorist either.

Posted by: hc01 | October 7, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

How about a prison ship anchored off shore somewhere? Say, in the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season...

Posted by: SUMB44 | October 7, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The Obama Administration created this problem for itself by promising a closing date to please foreign countries, before the Administration had any realistic plan to effectuate the closing.

There has never been mass US support for bringing these people to the US and only marginal support for closing Gitmo ad delivering the prisoners to foreign countries. Congress reponds to US voters, not to the United Nations.

There are real problems the Adminstration has not thought through.

How long will these people stay in a Supermax prison? US Supermax prisons are for punishing convicted criminals. Gitmo was set up to hold unconvicted people who were fighting against the United States using methods that did not qualify them for protected POW status and would do so again if released. Gitmo is a nicer facility that US Supermax prisons, because it was established to detain, not to punish. Any punishment occurring at Gitmo is for bad prisoner behavior while at Gitmo, not for events occurring before arriving at Gitmo.

We would not house POWs in a US Supermax prison for this reason.

How long will it be before law suits are brought to free unconvicted, but still dangerous, people from a punishment facility? The Obama Administration should have thought this through before it promised a closing date for Gitmo.

The Obama Administration's Gitmo closing plan is flawed. That's the reason the vote in Congress was overwhelmingly against the Administration's plan. Why else would a Democrat dominated Congress vote overwhemingly against the Adminstration's plan?

Posted by: jfv123 | October 7, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I keep wondering where the "true grit" of Americans actually is. Why in the name of the universe isn't every person in this country prodding his/her senator or congressperson with a hot iron to get off their duffs and work this thing through. We look like the thugs of the world with prisoners held in an off-shore lock-up. We refuse to allow the decency of charges or hearings. We have known murderers, rapists, and other anti-social criminals in prisons across the country. (Our local county lock-ups hold as bad or worse than Guantanamo.)

Some elected official grand-stands and asserts a danger from bringing suspects to our shore and exercising the justice for which we want to be famous and we all hide our heads. What is wrong with us? Isn't this the "home of the free and the brave"? It's time for responsible citizenry to remind our officials why they were elected. It's time to walk the walk.

Posted by: Jazzman7 | October 7, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Obama = Empty Suit with Teleprompter. Wire Washington. Will Travel.

The issue has been well identified by several other posters. Putting these animals on U.S. soil leads inevitably to their release in this country. Congress knows that. Most of Congress are lawyers. If anyone knows the game, it's them.

What's so hard to figure out?

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | October 7, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Always Remember "The Peacekeepers" 241 Marines ,KIA on Oct.23,1983 Beirut Lebanon. While they slept by an Iran backed Hezbollah JIHADIST.

The majority of the PATRIOTS in this country DO NOT want them on OUR soil. Gitmo is 90 miles from the U.S. What is the BIG differance of them being in ONE prison compared to the other.

The Media is spouting some off the wall THEORY that GITMO makes OUR country look BAD to the rest of the world.

Got news for you, THE MAJORITY of AMERICANS, probably 90% if polled would would enjoy telling the critics. KISS MY ASS


If the JIHADIST watched LOCK-UP on cable and saw the condition of the prisons. We lock up our own citizens. GITMO is where the JIHADIST would WANT to be if they had a choice.

Posted by: 79USMC83 | October 7, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Prisoners of war do not belong on US soil. Wise up people.

Posted by: Section505203 | October 7, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

To 79USMC83 and those of your ilk - I CARE WHAT THE REST OF THE WORLD THINKS ABOUT THIS COUNTRY EVEN IF YOU DON'T. I WANT that prison closed and I want this country to start acting like the civilized country we are supposed to be, to stop torturing people and to stop keeping atrocities like Gitmo open. I pay taxes too and it is myt turn.

By the way, build a prison for these alleged terrorists in my back yard. I am not a fearful little wimp like these other posters are. I actually believe that these prisoners can be housed in this country safely.

The kind of thinking of these posters leaves us in the dust, far behind most of the rest of the civilized world on virtually everything - health care, morality, the list is endless.

ENOUGH.

Posted by: nyrunner101 | October 7, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Have to agree with nyrunner101.
What are you guys afraid of. The U.S. has more experience than anyone in the world at jailing people. You're No. 1. Yay!

Posted by: lewfournier1 | October 7, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

The obvious fear that some folks have is not that such prisoners cold escape on their own, but that AlQaeda , or some terrorists of similar ilk, would try to blow up such a prison and release the terrorist prisoners.

This fear is no more irrational than the similar widely expressed fear from opponents of new nuclear power plans: that the plants would become targets for terrorists.

NIMBY !!

Posted by: tjmacdonald | October 7, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The obvious fear that some folks have is not that such prisoners cold escape on their own, but that AlQaeda , or some terrorists of similar ilk, would try to blow up such a prison and release the terrorist prisoners.

This fear is no more irrational than the similar widely expressed fear from opponents of new nuclear power plans: that the plants would become targets for terrorists.

NIMBY !!

Posted by: tjmacdonald | October 7, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

By the way, build a prison for these alleged terrorists in my back yard. I am not a fearful little wimp like these other posters are. I actually believe that these prisoners can be housed in this country safely.
Posted by: nyrunner101
_____
So you want to close a safe multi-million dollar facillity in GITMO so we can spend more multi millions building a prison here?? And whats the point of that again?? Do you really believe terrorists will say.. Oh they closed GITMO and now that our guys ae being held in a prison in America it's all good??? These guys will hate us as long as we hold their friends prisoners.. I really don't think they care if it's in GITMO or in Kansas. Besides yeah you said your live outside.. wow how brave. Are you willing to work inside??? Remember unlike normal prisoners these guys will work together to attack a guard or stage a riot.. Think of Attica but this time with terrorists holding hostages... Look no one is being tortured now and a prison is a prison and we already spent the money there.. what sense is there to spend more millions to bring them here???

Posted by: sovine08 | October 7, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

What if the enemies of the state escape from Gulagtanamo and wreak havoc on our legal system, not to mention our carefully constructed versions of reality? No, the best place for the facility continues to be on the soil of one of the last vestiges of Stalinism on earth.

Posted by: patrick3 | October 7, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Maybe this will finally end the confusion as to the possible status of any captured combatant. One is either a lawful combatant as defined by the Geneva Conventions, including civilians who take up arms to defend their country, and therefore subject to indefinite internment with GC defined protection or one is an unlawful combatant and subject to prosecution and conviction in an applicable court of law.

Posted by: observer57 | October 7, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I think this "opinion" writer is barking up the wrong tree. It is not the prison escape, mister, that is of concern, but the fact that they will be subject to US law. The ACLU and lawyers of its ilk will try to spring them out. "Innocent until proven guilty" they will say. What evidence does the US Govt. have to convict, that will meet the high standards of US jurisprudence? So does it mean that they are innocent? Hell no. So do we free them to roam America killing, bombing, kidnapping, beheading, uncaring of human life steeped as they are in religious Islamic nihilism?

Posted by: Observer20 | October 7, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Obama = Empty Suit with Teleprompter. Wire Washington. Will Travel.

The issue has been well identified by several other posters. Putting these animals on U.S. soil leads inevitably to their release in this country. Congress knows that. Most of Congress are lawyers. If anyone knows the game, it's them.

What's so hard to figure out?

Posted by: Curmudgeon10
___________________

I guess if you can judge men who have never been tried and found guilty of anything "animals" then I can judge you as a complete and total waste of space.

You post is completely irrational.

Posted by: arancia12 | October 7, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

So you want to close a safe multi-million dollar facillity in GITMO so we can spend more multi millions building a prison here?? And whats the point of that again?? Do you really believe terrorists will say.. Oh they closed GITMO and now that our guys ae being held in a prison in America it's all good??? These guys will hate us as long as we hold their friends prisoners.. I really don't think they care if it's in GITMO or in Kansas. Besides yeah you said your live outside.. wow how brave. Are you willing to work inside??? Remember unlike normal prisoners these guys will work together to attack a guard or stage a riot.. Think of Attica but this time with terrorists holding hostages... Look no one is being tortured now and a prison is a prison and we already spent the money there.. what sense is there to spend more millions to bring them here???

___________________

I think the fearful forget we have terrorists housed here in American prisons right now. We have Ted Kazcinsky, Terry Nichols, and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman along with some pretty nasty American criminals. No one has escaped from SuperMax and it's already built.

The fact is it is shameful to hold human beings as prisoners without any proof they did anything. Shameful.

Our Declaration of Independence says ALL men are endowed with certain inalienable rights. The declaration was written before the US was a country so the authors were referring to ALL men.

Even the prisoners in Gitmo, no, especially the prisoners in Gitmo deserve to be tried publically and held or released. These people face incarcaration for the rest of their lives and yet there is no proof they are guilty of anything.

George W. Bush released more than 500 Gitmo detainees. That should tell you that innocent people were picked up and put in prison. And this is all right with you??

I guess the real reason so many don't want the Gitmo prisoners to come here is because they don't want to have to think about them. It's just too shameful. A conservative friend of mine, a wonderful person, told me he didn't care what our government did to those men, he just didn't want to know about it.

Sorry to tell you this, you just can't wash your hands of injustice. Pontius Pilate couldn't do it and neither can you.

Posted by: arancia12 | October 7, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

To: nyrunner101 To those of your ilk - I say that I to care what the rest of the World thinks about this Country, that is why I am so disappointed by Obama, he makes promises without thinking of the consequences that promise will cause. He goes to other Countries & say how awful that America is over & over again. At the UN conference in New York there was three people that ran down the USA and one of them was our President. Most of the rest of the World think he is a clown.(I read several newspapers from other Countries daily.)

He promised to close Getmo without making sure first that he had a place to put these Islamic Killers. If you would like the prison to hold them in your yard, that's OK, that is if you live in another country.

How can you say that these prisoners would not be able to get out of that prison, break-outs are always a possibility. If they do happen to break-out I'm glad they will be in your yard not mine, because I have seen how they treat people, they had no problem ramming two planes into the largest buildings in New York, one into the Pentagon building & try to ram some other building, but not for the brave people on that plane they would have succeeded.

Have you forgotten how they like to torture & behead their on People. We have watched on Video the beheading of an American prisoner.

Have you forgotten the bombing of our Embassies & the ship the Cole. Perhaps you have forgotten the young prisoners that were held for over 400 days, and some were dragged through the streets until their bodies came apart and the only reason they released the prisoner was because when Reagan was elected President, they feared what he would do, they knew Carter who was a fearful little wimp that would do NOTHING. (Nice picture of Islamic Terrorist don't you think,) you must or you would not want those murders in the USA.

By the way Obama was the one to release the Getmo papers & pictures while we are still at War. (Good reason to Impeach Him) Papers & pictures that would inflamed the Terrorist even more & hate the USA even more, while our brave Solders are there in their Country fighting for your's & my freedom from any more attacks like the horror of 9/11 in our Country.

Is your memory so short that you don't remember they tried without success to bomb a building in New Your, Dallas, & 2 other places just a few weeks ago.

I'm afraid I don't understand or care to understand people of your ilk.

Posted by: wildfire1946 | October 7, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Why is it any more "just" to hold these guys in indefinite detention in Supermax than it is to hold them indefinitely in Gitmo?

All of this obsession over the geography while ignoring the underlying legal issues is so silly.

Posted by: bobmoses | October 7, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Oh my god. Turn on Olbermann right now. He is in full scenery-chewing mode.

What a fool. He is a prefect compliment to Glenn Beck.

Posted by: bobmoses | October 7, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Stromberg are you discounting the testimony and concerns of FBI Director Robert Mueller, regarding placing Gitmo detainees in the US, when he stated before a House hearing in May 2009 that:

". . . . they could radicalize others, even if held in U.S. high-security prisons. And he said if any detainees with terror training are ultimately ordered released, then it would present a challenge to the FBI to keep close tabs on them, either with physical surveillance or wiretaps."

In addition to the above, he also stated at the hearing:

"In gang activity around the country, using it as an analogy, there are individuals in our prisons today who operate their gangs from inside the walls of prison. So while there may not be the opportunity to escape, there may still be the risk."

Posted by: Sierra_Vista | October 7, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Release them all. They have not been charged with anything, much less convicted. Their captors and their lackey should be tried, not the detainees.

Posted by: fudador | October 7, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Either try them, release them, or declare them prisoners of war. This entire debacle is a result of our attempt to shrug off the international rule of law regarding prisoners of war. All Americans ought to be ashamed of Guantanamo Bay and how quickly we tucked our guiding principles away in a closet the moment we got a little scared. But we're awfully proud of our fairweather values, aren't we?

Posted by: ponkey | October 7, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Just for the record, Gitmo is 540 miles from Miami. It is on the SE coast of the island. Also for the record, in WW2 we held many thousands of POWs in camps across the US. However, they did not have access to the US court system and Habeas Corpus. How do you try someone who has stated that they are proud of what they did on 9/11/01, and would do it again, yet the chain of custody of the evidence will not support a conviction in a US court.
BTW I was in GTMO from 1978-1983, weather is nice.

Posted by: hc01 | October 7, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

I am bemused by those who live in the NIMBY universe. You want "them" dealt with but don't want to know the details. I have to agree with arancia12, the Pontius Pilate approach does not free you of guilt, it simply shows the rest of us you lack the courage of your convictions. Put "them" to trial under law, release "them," execute "them" out of hand, if you must, but stand up and do it. Leaving "them" in a cage is not an option.

The only thing more distressing that the NIMBY cowardice is the amoral cowardice of the House and Senate in this matter. Apparently, we are not a nation of laws, we are a nation of fears. If Mr. Hannity is right and we are the greatest best nation God gave the world, what are you afraid of?

Posted by: BillFer | October 7, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

What’s next for Gitmo?
Find out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWoY3Y-2eww

Posted by: thincaboutit | October 7, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Let the Muslim nutcase terrorists rot in Gitmo, and then in hell. Why are we trying to coddle them and try to please the Muslim world. They'll despise us no matter what we do.

Posted by: joelwright1 | October 7, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Given the posts by the right wing thugs it does explain why the U.S. Government had no trouble finding persons willing to torture prisoners.

Posted by: orange3 | October 8, 2009 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Why not just release them? They've done nothing wrong and they're not dangerous.

Right?

Posted by: toshiro1 | October 8, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Note to "Observer57" and others regarding the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention only provides protection to those who are part of an established armed force with a command structure, distinctive uniforms,etc to separate them from ordinary civilians. It does not provide protection to any other type of combatants. George Bush provided limited protection when he extended some of the protections of the Geneva Convention to those designated as "unlawful combatants". People confuse a protocol to the Geneva Convention which would extend the basic protection to those operating as guerilla forces and insurrections, but this protocol has not been ratified by most countries including the United States. If it had been ratified Timothy McVeight would have had to be treated as a POW and given the appropriate protections of the Convention. He would have claimed that he was part of an insurrection against the USG. Instead he got justice. It is wise to remember that one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.

Posted by: hc01 | October 8, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

The more Obama waffles, the more I miss George Bush.


Posted by: lindalovejones | October 8, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

How can you defend Obama from those on both sides calling him weak, by pointing out that he's not strong enough to unite his own party? 93-7 is a pretty strong message from the Senate majority that they're not interested in having a showdown over Gitmo, no matter what the president promised the largely uninformed private citizens of America.

Saying that Obama's inability to keep this promise can be blamed on congress is pretty pitiful. As opposed to Obama, a qualified leader may not have had success in this effort either, but you can bet your salary even if we had a President Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or even still George W. Bush, any one of them could have done better than 93-7 with their own party in a majority.

Perhaps Obama really knows closing Gitmo is a bad idea, and it was just an empty promise to get him nominated and elected? Probably. It's an issue he can easily sweep under the rug between now and the next election, as long as Jon Stewart will just shut up and go back to being a team player. I guess nobody counted on the grass-roots left actually holding the president accountable... uninformed and misguided as they may be.

Posted by: theCentrist | October 8, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Hum...

Maybe its time for another Obama flip-flop ? and blame it on Congress ?

Why not keep Gitmo open ? It is a truely model prison in which America has invested millions. It is visible and served by hundreds of lawyers, a huge military and professional staff. It has been toured by thousands of Europeans, Human rights people, and lawyers looking for the smallest flaw.

Heck, a Belgian official sheepishly admitted to the Washington Post last year that Gitmo is far superior to any Belgian prison ! And heck in Belgian prisons the prisoners have a weekly chocolate ration !

Yup.. its time for another flip-flop. One that might garner Obama some bi-partisan support even !

Posted by: pvilso24 | October 8, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I heard a republcon congressman giving a speech about how they were going to take these people who are avowed to kill Americans and put them in your neighborhood. What disgraceful conduct from an elected official. He made it seem as if the plan was to take terrorists and put them in condos next to the bowling alley. The plan is to put them into facilities that house other equally if not more dangerous criminals who also are avowed to, and in their cases ofeten have, kill Americans. There is no reason whatsoever for rpublicons to oppose closing gitmo - EXCEPT it is another way to try to say no and therefore embarrass the president. And as usual, they will lie and lie and lie and lie if they can achieve that one little goal. No mater how much damage they do to the country in the process.

Posted by: John1263 | October 8, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

If you miss bush you ar either deranged or a late nigh comedian.

Posted by: John1263 | October 8, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

German POWs were held on US soil during both world wars.

The biggest problem with the Gitmo people is that bush broke every manner of law, from their illegal detention without habeus and due process, to torture and all the rest. What that means going forward is that we cannot do what should have been done years ago, and would have under a legitimate administration. these people should have been tried and if guilty imprisoned.

I seem to remember some really really heinous fellows-- Goebbels, Hess, Speer, Doenitz to name a few -- we gave them a free and fair trial because WE are the United States. Not some banana republic or some military junta. Unfortunately because of the myriad violations of law and basic legal proceedings we no longer have that option with the Gitmo people. All or most of the evidence is tainted. the prosecutors would have to allow evidence of torture and such on discovery.

In all bush created a disaster. As he did with so many things. He acted like a dumb arsh cowboy hick in a cheesey spagetti western instead of the head of state of the most advanced and powerful nation in the history of the world. We are paying the price in too many ways to count, but this is certainly one of them.

Posted by: John1263 | October 8, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

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