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Are Gitmo's Days Numbered?:
The Independent (UK) reports:
  The US has asked the British government for advice in preparation for closing down the notorious prison camp at Guantanamo Bay by sending hundreds of alleged al-Qa'ida fighters back to their home countries, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. * * *
  Legal sources in the US have confirmed that senior Bush officials want to send most of these men, including senior aides to Osama bin Laden and at least five British residents, to be imprisoned in their home countries - a process that could start within weeks.
John Thacker (mail):
Most of the, e.g., French citizens have already been shipped home. But that's because France is both definitely committed to imprisoning terrorits and doesn't worry about things like habeas corpus rights for alleged terrorists.

There are a lot of countries, such as the UK, which don't particularly want their residents and citizens back because, like the US if we brought them to a domestic jail, they would have civil liberties problems with holding the prisoners indefinitely. The method of capture (whether by the US or by allied countries looking for bounties) precludes a fair trial. Yet at the same time the countries don't want to let the guilty known terrorists go free.

That's why many European countries have tolerated the facility at Guantanamo. They'd rather the Americans dealt with the nasty quandry rather than themselves. In quite a few cases they've turned down requests or inquiries to send their residents back to them. (Except for the French-- they slap all theirs into prison as soon as they get them back.)
3.12.2006 11:50am
Dave:
The U.S. has no good options here. If we send these people to be imprisoned in Britain (or wherever) and they get trials there, it could turn out that they were innocent the whole time (in fact, many of them are innocent)*. That would make the U.S. look pretty bad. If we release them ourselves, that raises the question of why we didn't do it immediately after they were captured. If they are terrorists and we send them to Pakistan or Syria, they could be released and/or serve as anti-US propaganda props, telling everyone about how we tortured them (which we probably did). Alternatively, if we send them to those countries and they get tortured, that could make us look pretty bad, too.

Three cheers for Bush's war on terrorism!

Dave

*
here are some excerpts from an analysis of the Pentagon's own data of the people detained there:

There are now about 490 prisoners at Gitmo, and "55 percent of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or coalition allies.

"Only 8 percent of the detainees were characterized as Al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40 percent have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda at all and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

"Only 5 percent of the detainees were captured by United States forces. [A total of] 86 percent of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86 percent of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were turned over to the United States at a time at which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies." (Emphasis added.)

The Northern Alliance included Afghan warlords—not noted, to say the least, for their concern for any due process in rounding up "suspects" or the quality of the "evidence," if any, connecting their captives with terrorism. But these warlords were attracted by the generous sums the U.S. gave them for these suspects—many of whom were then warehoused at Gitmo.

The Seton Hall Law School report concludes with just two sentences—exposing the Bush administration's cold fraudulence in imprisoning these "enemy combatants" at Gitmo in the name of our national security and in total violation of due process, the basis of American rule of law, along with violating international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on civilized treatment of prisoners:

"The detainees have been afforded no meaningful opportunities to test the Government's evidence against them. They remain incarcerated."
3.12.2006 1:22pm
Kendall:
Dave -

If we send these people to be imprisoned in Britain (or wherever) and they get trials there, it could turn out that they were innocent the whole time (in fact, many of them are innocent)*. That would make the U.S. look pretty bad.



Yes, it'd be a shame if the US government was made to look bad.
3.12.2006 2:08pm
SLS 1L:
What does it matter if we're still running prison camps in the former Soviet Bloc countries?
3.12.2006 2:54pm
Steve P. (mail):
Yes, it'd be a shame if the US government was made to look bad.


It would ruin our perfect record!
3.12.2006 3:07pm
Cornellian (mail):
Does anyone else think the real story here is that this White House is asking someone for advice?
3.12.2006 3:21pm
mannning:
We have made our very own Tarbaby, and have embraced it mightily. Much as we want to disband Gitmo's prison, I believe there has to be another answer.

The answer is to simply repeat the original purpose and qualifications for imprisonment in the Gitmo prison in clear terms (enemy combatants), and hold prisoners there who qualify for incarceration--indefinitely--just as we are doing now.

However, if there are no direct and verifiable charges against a current prisoner, it would seem appripriate to let him go.
3.12.2006 4:30pm
CharleyCarp (mail):
Mannning:

Are you suggesting that the US have trials? Or just presume guilt? And if trials, what kind of due process are you going to have? Will hearsay be admissible? Evidence obtained through torture? As everyone knows, most of the prisoners were not captured on a battlefield, or under arms, much less by US military people. Do you have any idea how little of the evidence against these people is "direct" and "verifiable"?

And what's an enemy combatant anyway? If you use the formulation that the Supreme Court accepted in Hamdi, you're going to have to let a bunch of people go. If instead you use the Wolfowitz standard, under which you can hold the little old lady from Switzerland* -- you're still going to have to let people go, but not as many.

* If you don't know what this means, you might think about doing a little reading on what the actual policy is.
3.12.2006 5:09pm
Dave:
Kendall and SteveP, I think you may have misunderstood me. I'm very strongly against the illegal and quasi-legal denial of due process and abuse that's been going on at Gitmo. I was just commenting that now the U.S. is caught in a tough situation because of the mess that it created--and could have avoided if it stayed true to its principles.

Dave
3.12.2006 7:45pm
bluecollarguy:
"Only 8 percent of the detainees were characterized as Al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40 percent have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda at all and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban..."


Or if one prefers English in the direct mode, 83% of the detainees have defintive connections to al Qaida or the Taliban, both declared enemies of the United States of America. Of course those terrorist organizations are not the only declared enemies of the USofA.

FYI, here are the letters from the CSRB which the paper you quote was based on. Statistics are more fungible than money.

3.12.2006 8:37pm
Katherine:
I think you mean that 83% are accused of having a "definitive connection". Since the only hearings they've ever gotten involved detainees being presumed guilty and asked to disprove evidence they were never allowed to see, with no lawyers, no right to call witnesses that the tribunal didn't feel like getting for them, no right to confront witnesses, no privilege against self-incrimination, and no exclusion of hearsay evidence or evidence obtained under torture, you can't really say they HAVE a definitive connection. And, of course, a guy who was drafted into the Taliban and forced to peel their vegetables has a "definitive connection".

As for this article--there have been discussions like this for a while, but that doesn't mean it won't actually happen one of these days. "Within weeks" is sooner than I'd guess but who really knows.

I would think the recent riots &escapes at Afghan and Yemeni prisons might slow this down, though.
3.12.2006 10:38pm
SLS 1L:
What's a "definitive connection"? If we don't know, how can we be sure it would merit being imprisoned even if were proven? Say, for example, that my brother is an Al-Qaeda operative, and I know it. This may be a "definitive connection," but not ratting my brother out is, afaik, not a crime, and shouldn't be. The connection absolutely merits my being questioned, trailed, and/or wiretapped, but it doesn't justify imprisonment, and it certainly doesn't justify imprisonment without trial.

For all we know, a "definitive connection" could be much more tenuous than that.
3.13.2006 12:38am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
It still comes down to the fact that we can't prove in a U.S. court of law using U.S. law (or presumably the laws of most European countries) our charges simply because of evidentiary problems. In the best cases, imagine having to haul U.S. servicemen wherever there are trials. This might mean pulling guys from one unit in Afganistan to testify in one case one week in the U.K., and then a couple weeks later France. This would do wonders for unit cohesion, plus be extremely onerous for those concerned - indeed, give a big incentive to eliminate the problem up front by shooting anyone captured and potentially headed elsewhere as escaping illegal combatants. And then what do we do when the soldiers are discharged? How does the U.K. get former U.S. soldiers to testify in U.K. courts?
3.13.2006 3:26am
CharleyCarp (mail):
Bruce, your point doesn't have anything to do with the vast bulk of GTMO prisoners, who were not apprehended by the US military under arms. And your answer is shocking: since it's too much trouble to try to find out whether the denunciation of some individual by a Pakistani bounty hunter is based on fact, let's just presume it's true. For what amounts to a life sentence.

What are you so scared of that you're willing to throw our values over the side so casually?
3.13.2006 7:33am
CharleyCarp (mail):
And of course, one should distinguish between what the US is permitted to do under the law, and what is a prudent policy. Not everything that's legal is a good idea. (Not everything that's a good idea is legal either, obviously).

It seems to me that the life imprisonment without trial system at GTMO fails on both prongs -- but even if it only fails on one, the experiment ought to be ended.
3.13.2006 7:37am
Huggy (mail):
The elephant in the room is that these guys were tourist in a war zone. Nobody wants them. At best they are undesirable citizens. Maybe they could be sent to Harvard law school for processing.
3.13.2006 7:47am
John Thacker (mail):
"But these warlords were attracted by the generous sums the U.S. gave them for these suspects—many of whom were then warehoused at Gitmo."

"Were" it says, hmm. Doesn't say that they still are. A case of tell-tale tense, perhaps? Actually, quite many of those held at Camp X-Ray have been released, especially back to Afghanistan and Pakistan. I take it then that we must conclude that those statistics are about the total number of detainees ever held, not those currently there. In fact, from reading the paper, it is clear that those who are exonerated according to the statistics quoted were released.

And your answer is shocking: since it's too much trouble to try to find out whether the denunciation of some individual by a Pakistani bounty hunter is based on fact, let's just presume it's true.

Actually, as the statistics rather show, we are going to trouble to find out whether the prisoners are guilty. You, on the other hand, simply refuse to believe the findings. Not an entirely paranoid viewpoint perhaps, but I think it's clear that no amount of determination would satisfy you outside of a fair trial with due process, which is obviously impossible. It's completely untrue and a scurrilous charge to claim that we are merely "presum[ing] that it's true" because it's "too much trouble" to prove. Why else would there be official statistics claiming that 17% who were once held had no connection unless some effort were made?
3.13.2006 10:48am
Houston Lawyer:
I see no point in sending these guys back to their country of origin. The war crimes that they are accused of perpetrating were not committed in their countries of origin. When a foreigner commits a crime here, he is tried and punished here, notwithstanding the interests of his home country. I suggest we send them back to the places where they were captured, and let the locals deal with them there.
3.13.2006 10:56am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
"Life impriasonment w/o trial"

Not life imprisonment. WWIV like WWIII will only last 30-40 years max (it's hard to keep wars going as underlying conditions change) so most POWs would be released while alive.

POW imprisonment is never like civil imprisonment. Trials and evidence are utterly irrelevent.

It's unfortunate that the opposition is too pathetically incompetent to field organized armies against us (they managed during the 7th-16th centuries). This is rough on innocent civilians. Perhaps those innocent civilians should reorganize their societies in a more efficint fashion. Asians and Indians did and are better off.
3.13.2006 11:13am
CharleyCarp (mail):
John Thacker, the Seton Hall study was based on CSRT records of prisoners currently in custody, and so does not include the many prisoners already released (before late 2004, anyway).

I didn't (and wouldn't) say that no effort has been made, but that if that effort relies on (a) evidence obtained through torture (by us or, more importantly, others); (b) evidence/witnesses with insufficient confrontation (ie, where the prisoner isn't told the charge or evidence, or the source of the charge); and/or (c) hearsay from people who are not US servicemen and women, then it falls seriously below the burden that must be on the state to deprive someone of freedom. These are real issues: there are likely people in prison as a result of being denounced by someone with a grudge, rather than some kind of actual activity.

You say I'm wrong about presuming the truth of what some Pakistani bounty hunter has said about a prisoner -- what can you point to that supports your contention that this is "scurrilous"? (BTW, I was commenting directly on Bruce Hayden's response, not US policy. The government, as a result of Rasul, made much more effort in 2004 than ever before [but still insufficient, imo]. People who think Rasul wrongly decided hardly have the moral authority to claim that the government's response to Rasul demonstrates the incorrectness of that decision).

Houston Lawyer, the point in the Seton Hall study -- and the government indictment of only 10 out of the 490 prisoners -- is that the vast majority of them are not war criminals. Sending them back to Pakistan (even if they are Yemenis) has some surface appeal. You know why the government doesn't want to do this: if they didn't do anything illegal under Pakistani law (or if their crime was illegal entry into that country) then they'll get released.

Huggy, you say that no one wants them, but I think if you look into the thing a little closer, you'll find that Saudi Arabia and Yemen, to pick two, have not rejected the return of these prisoners. Rather, they have balked at the terms the US seeks to impose on such transfers. And, of course, their diplomats may well not know any more about what some individual prisoner did than what our government tells them. If we tell them these people are dangerous terrorists -- whether this is true or not -- their attitude may well be different than if we tell them that most of the people have little or no actual involvement in any hostilities.

Duncan, I can't tell whether your comment is serious. If it is, 30 years is plenty long to be held without a real trial.
3.13.2006 12:17pm