So what would happen if Barack Obama were to keep his promise to shut down the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and release enemy combatants housed there? According to the Bush administration, these terrorist sympathizers would immediately “set out to kill Americans or other innocent civilians around the world.”
That bleak assessment comes from a batch of documents from the Department of Defense (DOD) recently obtained by Judicial Watch. Overall, they detail the policies of the Bush administration related to the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, as well as the significant risks to the general population if the detainees were released.
The records, which we got through the Freedom of Information Act, include a “Summary of Conclusions” for a June 19, 2003, meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) Principals Committee, which included top Bush administration officials, as well as a February 4, 2004, draft presentation entitled “Guantanamo Detainees” that was previously marked “Not for Public Dissemination.”
Here are a few of the highlights:
•The NSC Summary of Conclusions includes a detailed list of Bush administration officials who attended the June 19, 2003, meeting, including: Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who chaired the meeting; Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Former Attorney General John Ashcroft; Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, among others. The meeting included representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, and Justice as well as the Office of Vice President, CIA, White House Counsel, Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Council.
•According to the NSC Summary of Conclusions document, meeting participants requested another briefing to “include information regarding efforts to ensure that detainees who are released are prepared to be reintegrated into their societies and, to the extent possible, will not harbor ill will towards the United States.” [Emphasis added]
•The Department of Defense briefing document, entitled “Guantanamo Detainees,” clearly stated the dangers of releasing enemy combatants currently held at Guantanamo Bay into the general population:
◦“There is substantial risk that detainees at Guantanamo, upon release, would set out to kill Americans or other innocent civilians around the world.”
◦“Releases are not without risk if the individuals decide to resume fighting against us. Even though we have been careful and thorough in our screening, we now believe that several of the released detainees have returned to fight against the US and coalition forces.”
•The Defense Department briefing also includes a detailed chronology of the threat posed by al-Qaida beginning in 1996, biographies on some of the enemy combatants being detained, intelligence gathered from these detainees and a discussion about the Bush administration’s policies regarding the processing and treatment of detainees.
And why is this information from the previous administration relevant today?
Because two days after his inauguration, Barack Obama signed an executive order directing that Guantanamo Bay be closed within a year. The Obama administration, while disparaging the military tribunal process, pledged instead to bring terrorist suspects to justice using the civilian court system. (Remember the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial-in-New York fiasco? The Obama administration still doesn’t have a resolution.)
To date, the Guantanamo Bay facility remains open. In fact, on February 18, 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the chances of closing the Guantanamo Bay facility are “very, very low” due to congressional opposition. CIA Director Leon Panetta, meanwhile, told the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 17, 2001, that, if Osama bin Laden were captured, he would be transferred to Guantanamo Bay.
However, when asked about Panetta’s statement contradicting Obama’s public pronouncements regarding Guantanamo Bay, White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: “The president remains committed to closing Guantanamo.” (I encourage you to go over to the Weekly Standard web site, where there is an excellent analysis of these new documents.)
If Obama ever makes good on this commitment, as these documents demonstrate, the result would be dangerous and disastrous. The fact is that the Obama administration has completely mishandled the Guantanamo Bay facility from the outset. The intelligence community is shouting from the rooftops about the dangers of hastily closing Guantanamo Bay and releasing terrorists into the public. And these documents show that the government has known for years that terrorists released from Gitmo commit more terrorism and fight and kill our troops. Yet both the Bush administration and Obama administration keep releasing terrorists.
As a related aside, Judicial Watch Civil Litigation Director, attorney Paul Orfanedes, visited Guantanamo Bay in 2008 to monitor military commission proceedings against top 9/11 conspirators. Judicial Watch’s presence provided some balance to the ACLU and other radical groups advocating for the terrorist detainees.