AG Sessions: ‘No Legal Problem’ with Imprisoning Jihadists at Guantánamo

Attorney General Jeff Sessions waits to make a statement on issues related to visas and travel, Monday, March 6, 2017, at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions indicated that he would advise the commander-in-chief to continue using the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to house newly captured jihadists.

Sessions said he sees “no legal problem whatsoever” with doing so. His comments came in response to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asking Sessions what he would tell President Trump if he were to request legal guidance on incarcerating newly captured detainees at the Guantánamo facility, commonly known as Gitmo.

“There’s plenty of space. We’re well-equipped for it. It’s a perfect place for it. Eventually, this will be decided by the military rather than the Justice Department, but I see no legal problem whatsoever with doing that,” responded the new AG.

“I’ve been there a number of times as a senator and it’s just a very fine place for holding these kind of dangerous criminals,” added the former Alabama Republican lawmaker. “We’ve spent a lot of money fixing it up, and I’m inclined to the view that it remains a perfectly acceptable place. And I think a lot of the criticisms have just been totally exaggerated.”

Echoing President Trump, Sessions told Hewitt that he did not support former President Barack Obama’s failed goal to shut down Gitmo, suggesting that he would encourage the new commander-in-chief to keep the facility running.

Sessions did urge the military justice system to speed up the process of Gitmo hearings, telling the conservative radio host, “By now, we should have worked through all the legal complications that the Obama administration seemed to allow to linger and never get decided, so nothing ever happened.”

“So it is time for us in the months to come to get this thing figured out and start using it [military justice system] in an effective way,” he continued. “In general, I don’t think we’re better off bringing these people to federal court in New York and trying them in federal court — where they get discovery rights to find out our intelligence — and get court-appointed lawyers and things of that nature.”

Towards the end of the Obama administration, the military justice system and the former president’s parole-style panel proved to be capable of stepping up court hearings and detainee reviews as Obama pushed to shut down Gitmo.

The attorney general’s comments come nearly a month after the New York Times (NYT) reported that the Trump administration is considering ordering the Pentagon to continue using Gitmo to imprison newly captured terrorists linked to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

During his presidential campaign, President Trump vowed to “load [Guantánamo] up with some bad dudes.” The new president has blasted Obama for reducing the number of detainees housed at Gitmo.

Obama failed to keep his campaign promise of shutting down the detention center. The former president blamed his inability to deliver on “congressional restrictions,” explicitly saying, “all these rules and norms and laws” prevented him from emptying out and ultimately closing Gitmo.

However, Obama himself signed into law a bipartisan bill that prohibited him from carrying out his proposal to close down the facility.

The law banned Obama officials from building or modifying U.S. facilities to house Guantánamo prisoners, a key move to facilitate the former president’s plan to shut Gitmo down.

Obama did dramatically reduce the prison’s population, from 242 at the start of his presidency to 41 by the time he left.

His administration liberated many jihadists who had been deemed “forever prisoners,” or too dangerous to release. The U.S. intelligence community has determined that some (20) of the prisoners released by Obama are confirmed (9) or suspected (11) to have re-engaged in terrorist activities.

Nevertheless, the recidivism rate for detainees released by former President George W. Bush is higher — 113 confirmed and 75 suspected of having returned to the battlefield.

Bush (532) did liberate more than three times the amount of prisoners released by Obama (161), which may explain the high recidivism rate. It appears that the more prisoners are released, the higher the likelihood some will return to terrorist activities.


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