Closing Guantanamo (UPDATED X2)

Once again, the GOP is engaging in blatant dishonesty–this time about the President’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and relocate its inmates.

The Republicans pretend like the Obama administration is proposing to just dump these guys off on a corner in Duluth or something is some of the most idiotic, willfully dishonest garbage I’ve ever heard. We Democrats are proposing putting these guys in supermax prisons, which are the most secure prisons in the world designed to house the worst of the worst; anyone who talks about releasing Guantanamo detainees “on American soil” or “into our communities” is misleading the public.

One of Dick Cheney’s main points today was that Guantanamo detainees are nothing like anyone we’ve ever dealt with before–but that’s just not true. America has been imprisoning terrorists in supermax prisons for decades: domestic terrorists like Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski have all been kept in supermax.

We’ve also been holding Islamic jihadists in supermax prisons–Ramzi Yousef and Omar Abdel-Ragman, the men behind the 1993 WTC bombing, are in supermax prisons. So is 9-11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and Abdul Hakim Murad, an Al-Qaeda terrorist who planned to shoot 12 airlines out of the sky within a 48-hour period. And in the decades those men have been in supermax prisons, none of them have escaped, organized another terrorist attack, etc.

Republicans also pretend like we’ve never released anyone from Guantanamo before. In fact, before leaving office the Bush administration released nearly 500 Guantanamo detainees. In other words, George W. Bush released more people from Guantanamo than are currently being kept there. So why is moving detainees out of Guantanamo suddenly so controversial?

And, arguably, the Bush administration was more reckless in removing detainees from Guantanamo than the Obama administration will be–take this article from mid-January:

Six detainees were released from the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Department of Defense said Saturday.

Four of the men were transferred to Iraq, one to Algeria and one to Afghanistan, a military spokesman said.

[Emphasis mine]

So George W. Bush sent Guantanamo detainees back to the countries they came from, while Barack Obama wants to try them in American courts and put them in American prisons, which are the most secure in the world. You tell me–would you rather Guantanamo detainees be sent back to their home countries and have God knows what happen to them, or would you rather see them put on trial and incarcerated somewhere they will never leave?

The last stupid talking point I’ve heard is that, if you put Guantanamo detainees in American prisons, they’ll “radicalize” the prison population. But we’re talking about putting them in supermax prisons, which are nothing like the prisons you see on TV: supermax prisoners have very little contact with one another. They’re kept in tiny cells for 23 hours a day and are given only one hour of exercise in small, solitary exercise rooms.

Plus, jihadists are already kept in a separate area of the prison for just that reason:

A correctional officer at ADX told me that inmates are placed on the same range based on their compatibility. Another clue as to why jihadists are housed together comes from Bureau of Prisons director Harley Lappin’s 2003 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that his department’s strategy was to ensure that “inmates with terrorist ties do not have the opportunity to radicalize or recruit other inmates.” They are kept at ADX because, he noted, it’s “our most secure facility.”

[Emphasis mine]

In other words, nothing has changed–the Republicans are still as misleading and dishonest as ever. Once again, Republicans are playing political games with America’s national security and–to use their phrasing–undermining the President during wartime. Nobody who was part of (or even supported) the Bush administration can be trusted on this issue–shuttering Guantanamo while preserving America’s national security would be a huge blow to Bushism as a national security strategy, which is why Republicans are fighting so hard to make sure that Guantanamo stays open. It’s classic, craven, conservative CYA.

UPDATE: As for the “nobody will take Guantanamo detainees” argument–well, like I said, the supermax facility in Florence, Colorado, already houses Islamic terrorists.

Plus, there’s the town of Hardin, Montana:

Economic development officials in Hardin are looking at the soon-to-close detention facility in Guantanamo Bay as a possible fix for the jail sitting empty in Hardin.


Meanwhile, a 460-bed detention facility sits empty in Hardin. Built by Two Rivers Authority, the city’s economic development arm, the facility was meant to bring economic development to Hardin by creating more than 100 high-paying jobs.

While leaders continue to look for contracts to open the jail, which was completed in 2007, people in Hardin have approached Two Rivers executive director Greg Smith saying they have the answer: Get the contract to hold those prisoners from Guantanamo.


The Hardin City Council voted Tuesday to support Two Rivers’ efforts.

The council resolution states that the city “fully supports the efforts of the Two Rivers Authority to contact State and Federal officials for the purpose of inquiring into the possibility of housing Guantanamo detainees at the Two Rivers Authority in Hardin, Montana, and to determine whether the Two Rivers Detention Center could provide a safe and secure environment for housing said detainees.”

UPDATE II: As most of you have probably heard, the FBI recently broke up a terror plot being assembled by a group of homegrown Muslim converts.

The FBI went undercover in order to bust the plot, successfully foiling it before any damage could be done or any harm brought upon American citizens.

The alleged perpetrators have been arrested and will be tried in American courts; if guilty, they will be put in high-security American jails.

Most importantly, nobody had to be tortured or waterboarded for this plot to be prevented.  Event though this plot involved an impending terrorist attack on American soil, it was the FBI, not the CIA or the Pentagon or anyone like that, who stepped in and kept America safe.

Even though these men are jihadists who wish to wage war against the United States, none of them will be thrown in Guantanamo Bay. They are going to be tried under American law and, when convicted, placed in America’s most secure jails; personally, I hope they end up in Florence’s supermax facility.

What this shows us is that both torture and Guantanamo Bay are unnecessary. We are fully capable of investigating and foiling terrorist attacks and incarcerating those responsible without having to break our laws or sacrifice our values.  Whenever the GOP drags out their talking points about torture or Guantanamo, keep this story in mind.