Import of Gitmo Detainees: Assuaging the Wrong Fear

From President Obama’s speech yesterday:

Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders — namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety.
As we make these decisions, bear in mind the following face: Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists. As Republican Lindsey Graham said, the idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational.

Isn’t this a red herring? The threat to the continued detention of such persons is not inadequate physical arrangements. It is that bringing them onto the soil of the United States and into the direct purview of our court system greatly increases the chance that such detainees will leave the prison not by breaking out but by a turn of the key ordered by an American court.
This is not in any way to advocate for the indefinite detention of these detainees but rather, to identify yet another instance of flawed reasoning; in this case, one that will permit casual observers to say, “Oh, yeah, our prisons are secure; go ahead and bring them here”. In fact, prisons are comprised of both walls and authority. A breach of either enables a prisoner to go free; if of the latter, freedom tends not to be temporary.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

We’ve been holding some Cuban “parolees”(different meaning from parole as it’s commonly used) since 1980 without trial,hearings,etc at St.Elizabeth’s Hospital,a Federal detention facility for mentally ill persons.The inmates there are just too crazy and violent to ever release.
The Cuban influx of 1980 didn’t bring terrorists per se,just a lot of dangerous mentally ill persons and career criminals.
I spent a month on detail in Miami in 1980-it was like Dodge City what with the Colombians and Cubans squaring off and then fighting among themselves.
I think the Gitmo detainees are fine just where they are,or maybe on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean-the ACLU would have a hard time getting to visit.
What don’t the very liberal left understand about terrorism.
Treating terrorists like ordinary criminals is like treating a diamonback rattler as a house pet.
On RI Future Crowley was exultant that both RI senators were among the six who sided with Obama.Does he not see what’s wrong with that thinking?Only 6 out of 96 voting didn’t get it and he’s trying to portray them as heroes of some kind.
What’s the use??

Russ
Russ
12 years ago

Oh, no! Not the rule of law! How will America ever survive!

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Russ-what law applies here?They are not pOW’s who do have numerous rights that should be respected.
Check the treatment meted out to non-uniformed infiltrators in WW2 by the US.
It was in accordane with the rules of war,if such a concept even makes sense.
I’m more concerned with “collateral damage” victims than terrorists,who I believe,rightly or wrongly,have given up their rights to normal legal proceedings.

Will
12 years ago

It’s not about the rule of law; it’s about the rule of lawyers. I have no fear whatsoever that any terrorist is going to escape by force from a supermax prison. When President Obama or others say “no one has ever escaped,” it’s a straw man argument, because no one is saying that they would or could escape. However, I do have a fear that they could be released in America due to legal technicalities, if they were subject to the same laws and had the same Constitutional protections that are afforded to American civilian citizens in America. They are currently military detainees; they are not even technically prisoners of war, because they were not fighting on behalf of another country in uniform. They are housed in a prison camp on leased land in Cuba, and are not currently housed “in the United States”, and therefore are not subject to the jurisdiction of American civil courts. Therefore, they do not currently enjoy protections under the US Constitution, such as those requiring a trial by jury, requiring a speedy trial, rules governing the inclusion/exclusion of heresay eveidence, and especially rules thar govern the chain of custody for physical evidence, as well as confessions or statements made under harsh circumstances or conditions. They could (not necessarily will) be granted those rights, if they came to the US. I just don’t think we can afford to take that risk. We apparently can’t send them back to their home countries for any number of reasons, and we can’t summarily execute them (of course, this whole thing could have been avoided if they were killed on the battlefield instead of captured), but they are too dangerous to release outright. I’d personally be for airdropping them over their home countries sans parachutes, but that might not… Read more »

phil
phil
12 years ago

I’d personally be for airdropping them over their home countries sans parachutes, but that might not enamour us further with the international community.
That’s Will the cyber tough guy. The fact that some of those at Guantanamo were delivered into US military’s hands by warlords and rival factions in Afganistan for cash money does not trouble you.

Will
12 years ago

I’m telling you what I really think. No, it’s doesn’t trouble me in the least. They are still living because we allowed them to, presumably because we believed that they had intelligence we could use. They were our enemies on the battlefield of foreign countries, and therefore are fair game. As for buying off warlords or whatever, it’s actually probably the preferable way to do it. How do you think we took down the Mafia? You get one rat to rat out another rat. Eventually, all the rats turn on each other. I would rather have a situation where we got rid of 50-80% of the rats, instead of letting 100% of them roam free.
Do you think it surprises me that we sometimes have to deal with less than wonderful people overseas? Foreign policy often has to do with settling for the lesser of the two evils; it’s not always a choice between good and bad, but bad or worse. The only consideration is what’s best for the United States, in order to maintain it’s safety in the future. If that can be accomplished with cash instead of guns, I’m all for it.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Phil-what world do you live in? In Vietnam we had Nungs,Chinese Nationalist mercenaries who would literally do anything for money including flying deniable missions-I didn’t read this in a book either,but I won’t go into detail. We had Montagnards who fought the VC basically as mercenaries also. In every war we make accomodations like other countries do. In Afghanistan and also Iraq we have followed the same path. In Iraq we’ve used ‘contractors”,some of whom are ex-US military and some who are from wherever. In Afghanistan nothing happens without one tribal warlord or another on your side.The concept of central government is not taken seriously in that country. You cannot have an American mind set complete with courts and judges and scruffy little ACLU lawyers when you are dealing with events in that part of the world. The Gitmo detainees are not soldiers of any established army.They are jihadists who for the most part are irredeemably committed to attacking non-Islamic society until they or the “enemy”(us) are dead,or unless we convert tot heir religion. Calling Will a “cyber tough guy”dosen’t change what the facts are. He was saying what he’d like to happen,not what he seriously expects to happen is the way I took his comment. Keeping these people detained without access to the American justice system is really our only alternative. Maybe if we send the Uighurs back to China we can wash our hands of them-what do you think the Chinese will do with them?I’ll tell you-probably execute them after “extracting” information deemd useful.And waterboarding probably won’t be the method. Most countries of origin that these jihadists came from don’t want them back. Does that tell you something?The truth is that given the chance most of them would behead Sheldon Whitehouse,Jack Reed,the entire ACLU,you and myself. We have… Read more »

Phil
Phil
12 years ago

Will
No doubt that’s what you really think.
” They were our enemies on the battlefield of foreign countries,”
Who witnessed actions that made them enemies? U.S. military or an Afgan trading a prisoner for money. Are we to scrap any sort of legal justice with Guantanamo prisoners so you can feel safe.
Joe
“You cannot have an American mind set complete with courts and judges and scruffy little ACLU lawyers when you are dealing with events in that part of the world.”
Do you mean a prison at a U.S. military base as that part of the world?

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Phil-There is an answer based on precedent for your question.
These detainees are neither ordinary criminals nor POW’s.
They are in a separate category.
Let’s go back some years.An illegal alien wo crosses into the US immediately becomes eligible for Constitutional rights and an opportunity to utilize the US legal system for their own purposes.That’s just the way it is.
The US government instituted a program to intercept Haitian and Cuban refugees at sea and transport them to Gitmo from where they were returned to thier home countries summarily.Obviously security concerns were not paramount,since the vast majority of these people were individually harmless job seekers.
The point I’m making is that they were not afforded access to US courts because they were deemed to have never entered the country.The same principle can be applied to these individually dangerous detainees.

Phil
Phil
12 years ago

Joe
Thanks for the answer. Your knowledge in this area has obviously been earned. My point which you have not addressed is about way in which some not all of these suspected enemies came to be held as POWs or enemy combatants or whatever name Bush administration lawyers came up with at the time. Can we at least agree that they are people and if some among that group are innocent of the actions that are alleged to have done (who knows how they were rounded up by warlords willing to trade them for cash) they get a day in court.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Phil- Not a dy in court per se,but they should get a professional unbiased review of their cases by people best able to determine if they are being detained for the wrong reasons.Those people are not necessarily lawyers and judges.
Some have been released because they were found to be not what was originally thought.I don’t think the people responsible for this nation’s security really want to hold individuals they don’t have to.It’s akin to locking up the wrong suspect for a crime-it doesn’t address the one who did it.I hope our intelligence/CIA personnel are of a caliber that they take their responsibility seriously in that regard.My belief is that with the rare exception they do.

Will
12 years ago

“Who witnessed actions that made them enemies? U.S. military or an Afgan trading a prisoner for money.”
I suppose that’s for military tribunals to eventually decide. If we were talking about American citizens, my answer would be far different.
“Are we to scrap any sort of legal justice with Guantanamo prisoners so you can feel safe.”
If necessary, yes. Of course, I don’t necessarily equate “legal justice” with justice. Our first priority is to keep Americans safe. Everything else is secondary.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Monique-your last line reminded me that I wasn’t just spinning my wheels chasing illegal aliens non-stop in the Area Control Squad in Chicago for 4 years plus-the unit had 23 agents and averaged 1000-1500 apprehensions a month.
It seemed at the time that we were just playing ringalevio(OTL knows what that is) for all the good it did.
Myself and a few other agents frequently concentrated on East Indians,because they more challenging than just scooping mexicans up all day.The East Indians were largely Pakistani,with a smaller number of Indians and a Sri Lankan here and there.
Unlike the average Mexican who we just put on the bus without prints or photos,we fully documented any OTM(Other Than Mexican) because the Mexican consulate allowed for expedited processing of their citizens unlike other consulates.
Why tell this story?Because now there are many hundreds of Pakistanis thoroughly identified all those years ago (late 70’s) and with Pakistan being an epicenter of terrorism right now,maybe some of those men using false identities will be unmasked if encountered by authorities today.Perhaps many have been since 9/11.
Most of them were in their 20’s,maybe early 30’s at the time,so thy’re no kids now,but I feel good that we established a source of real data on these individuals.
Most of the Pakistanis were engaged in driving taxis and fast food service.
You never know when you’re doing what seems a routine job what it may result in.

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