US-POLITICS-GUANTANAMO BAY

Benjamin Wittes argues that the president’s own policies give rise to the problems he outlined in yesterday’s presser:

Remember that Obama himself has imposed a moratorium on repatriating people to Yemen. And Obama himself has insisted that nearly 50 detainees cannot either be tried or transferred. True, he would hold such people in a domestic facility, rather than at Guantanamo Bay. But so what? Does the President not understand when he frets about “the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity” that if Congress let him do exactly as he wished, he would still be doing exactly that—except that the number might not reach 100 and the location would not be at Guantanamo?

Serwer reviews Obama’s options:

By resuming transfers, the Obama administration might be able to end the strike. But doing so would entail taking on a significant amount of political risk—and, the administration believes, national-security risk as well. “The secretary of defense could just boldly issue the required certifications, bulling past the question of whether they were truly met,” says Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law who served on the Obama administration’s task force on detention policy. “With or without a certification requirement, of course, these days all releases carry political risk since a former detainee committing a terrorist act would almost certainly be blamed on the administration anyway.”

Max Fisher spells out other possibilities:

So what can Obama do? He can lobby Congress, as he hinted he would do at Tuesday’s news conference, perhaps to change the legislation blocking the U.S. from trying Guantanamo detainees or keeping them on U.S. soil. He can work with Yemen; a majority of the detainees are Yemeni, and their home country, which has been beset by political turmoil for the past two years, says it’s working on a $11 million facility to house and rehabilitate former Gitmo detainees. Perhaps Yemen could be better prepared to accept former detainees and to give them enough good options that they won’t want to turn to extremism. Obama could also work with Congress to loosen the politically unpalatable process for releasing detainees, or he could go ahead and release them anyway, although that would require finding countries to accept them.

And Amy Davidson emphasizes the humanity of the prisoners:

Do we even see them as people who may have the imagination to think about what it means to be in a jail on an island forever, without ever going to trial? Is that a life we can picture? There are undoubtedly terrorists at Guantánamo—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is there. But he’s one of the six who’s actually getting a military-commission hearing. At Guantánamo, it seems, the less you have done, the more trapped you are.

Recent Dish on Gitmo here.

(Photo: A protestor wears an orange prison jump suit and black hood on his head during protests against holding detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay during a demonstration in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on January 8, 2013. By Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.)