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Guantanamo's future in doubt

By E. Ralph Hostetter    
web posted October 26, 2009

President Barack Obama, just two days after his inauguration, signed an Executive Order on Tuesday, January 22, effectively ending the Central Intelligence Agency's secret interrogation base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Guantanamo Bay is the location of a U.S. Naval base established in the wake of the Spanish-American War.  It comprises a 45-square-mile site that was leased to the United States from Cuba in 1903 to use as a coaling station for the U.S. Navy.  The lease can only be terminated by the mutual consent of both the United States and Cuba. The United States has refused, up to this time, to consent to any change in or the cancellation of the lease.

GitmoSince the September 11, 2001, attacks that destroyed the World Trade Towers in New York City, the time elapsed has now permitted the Guantanamo Bay prison facility to become the center of criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists.  Now that the debris has been swept away and the carnage buried, the real culprit is said to be the United States with its terrorist prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Guantanamo Bay has served our nation well.  It should remain open.  The United States may well be at the very beginning stages of a world-wide terrorist uprising in which stateless individuals, operating in many instances on their own, place themselves in positions to reign terror and destruction on other individuals and societies around the world.

Prisoners taken since the invasion of Afghanistan suspected of being al-Qaida members or supporters have been transported to Guantanamo Bay for detention.

The Obama Administration indicated on May 9, 2009 that it was planning to revive the military commission system that came to an immediate halt in January.  President Obama intends to amend the Bush Administration's legal systems to provide more legal protection for terrorist suspects.

Human rights groups, as well as some of President Obama's political allies, are expected to offer sharp criticism to reviving the military commission system used during the Bush Administration. The military commission system was viewed as an effort to use Guantanamo to avoid the American legal system.

President Obama has ordered the facility closed in January. However, no plan has been offered to accomplish the closing.  At present the issue of closing Guantanamo Bay detention camp is at a standstill.

On May 19, 2009, Senate Democratic leaders said they would not provide the $80 million which President Obama had requested to close the detention center nor would they permit the transfer of detainees to the United States.  This decision brought into question President Obama's order to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010.

Democrats in Congress, by a vote of 307-114, last week were successful in passing a measure which would allow detainees held in Guantanamo Bay onto U.S. soil for prosecution.  A Republican bill to block the effort failed by a vote of 193-224.

There are growing demands from both Republicans and Democrats that President Obama provide more details on the closing of Guantanamo Bay and particularly assurances that detainees will not end up on American soil, even in maximum security prisons.

The New York Times reports,  "Administration officials have indicated that if the Guantanamo camp closes as scheduled, more than 100 prisoners may need to be moved to the United States, including 50 to 100 who have been described as too dangerous to release.  Of the 240 detainees, 30 have been cleared for release.  Some are likely to be transferred to foreign countries, though other governments have been reluctant to take them.  Britain and France have each accepted one former detainee.  And while as many as 80 of the detainees will be prosecuted, it remains unclear what will happen to those that are convicted and sentenced to prison."

Representative Charles W. Dent (R-PA), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, states that the closure of Guantanamo Bay is illy advised:  "The prisoners we are talking about are people like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks – dangerous killers who do not know the bounds of decency or law.  They are not ordinary criminals; they are declared enemies of the United States who were engaging in direct action against us.

"I remain convinced that Guantanamo Bay is better suited to hold these detainees than any facility, even a military base, in the United States.  We've invested hundreds of millions of dollars to add facilities at Guantanamo Bay specifically to handle these detainees.  It's surrounded by minefields and protected by the best security force in the world, the United States Marine Corps.

"I, for one, sleep well at night knowing that these dangerous terrorists are detained at Guantanamo Bay instead of somewhere in the United States." ESR

E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and publisher, also is an award-winning columnist and Vice Chairman of the Free Congress Foundation Board of Directors. He welcomes e-mail comments at eralphhostetter@yahoo.com.


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