Following the lead of the House of Representatives, the United States Senate has voted to block funding for the closure of the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay. The move is a stinging, bi-partisan rebuke for President Barack Obama.
According to AP, “President Barack Obama’s allies in the Senate will not provide funds to close the Guantanamo Bay prison until the administration comes up with a satisfactory plan for transferring the detainees held there, top Democrats said Tuesday. And in a further break with Obama, the Senate’s top Democrat said he opposes transferring any Guantanamo prisoners to the United States for their trials or to serve their sentences.”
The Congress is responding to growing public unease at the idea of transferring the most hardened terrorists in the world from the relative security of Guantanamo Bay to US prisons in their backyards. President Obama has so far not come up with any plan of what to do with the terrorists once the Guantanamo Bay prison is closed. Attempts to persuade foreign countries to take the Guantanamo terrorists have so far not been met with success. The idea of putting the Guantanamo terrorists in American prisons has become politically toxic, as the votes in the Congress would indicate.
While it is unlikely that any of the terrorists could escape from a federal super max prison, there are two problems with putting them in an American prison.
First, there is the possibility that the Guantanamo terrorists would either radicalize or antagonize other prisoners, if they were put in general population. Putting the Guantanamo terrorists in isolation has its own logistical and legal problems.
The other problem is that most if not all of the Guantanamo prisoners were taken on the battle field and were not arrested with full Miranda rights. Evidence of their crimes have not been retained with standard chain of evidence rules either. While it can be argued that the Guantanamo terrorists are not criminals in the sense that they have rights, an American judge might disagree. It is even conceivable that a liberal judge might rule to release some of the Guantanamo terrorists on legal technicalities.
That would be a political nightmare for any politician who is seen to have supported taking the Guantanamo terrorists. Byron York, writing for the Washington Examiner, suggests that the Guantanamo terrorist issue is made to order for Republicans. Indeed it would seem to be a lose/lose situation for President Obama. If Obama “succeeds” in closing Guantanamo, transferring the terrorists to American jails, he will be seen as endangering American lives for no real purpose. If Obama “fails” and is not able to close Guantanamo for the foreseeable future, then he will be seen as impotent and weak in the face of Congressional opposition.
Sources: Senate Democrats won’t fund Gitmo closing for now, Andrew Taylor, AP, May 19th, 2009
How the GOP beat Obama on Guantanamo, Byron York, Washington Examiner, May 20th, 2009