U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has signaled that it plans to “load up” the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with newly captured “bad dudes” linked to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and other Islamic terrorists and their affiliates.
President Trump vowed to “load [Guantánamo] up with some bad dudes” before being inaugurated, and U.S. Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions has been an ardent supporter of that pledge.
Last Friday, Sessions, his deputy Rod Rosenstein, and U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats visited the Guantánamo, commonly known as Gitmo, facility.
According to Ian Prior, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the purpose of Session’s first trip to Gitmo as AG was to gain “an up-to-date understanding of current operations.”
The trip was also intended to show that Guantánamo remains a “perfectly acceptable” place to house new jihadi suspects as opposed to imprisoning them on U.S. soil and trying them in civilian courts, as former President Barack Obama’s administration had suggested.
“Recent attacks in Europe and elsewhere confirm that the threat to our nation is immediate and real, and it remains essential that we use every lawful tool available to prevent as many attacks as possible,” noted the DOJ spokesman.
Sessions has been very vocal in his support for keeping Gitmo running.
In March, Sessions told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that Gitmo is a “very fine place for holding these types of dangerous criminals,” referring to Islamic terrorists.
“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,” declared the AG.
Even as the long-time Republican Senator of Alabama, Sessions had no qualms about expressing his opposition to shutting down the prison.
“We’ve spent a lot of money fixing it up,” Sessions told Hewitt. “And I’m inclined to the view that it remains a perfectly acceptable place. And I think the fact is that a lot of the criticisms have just been totally exaggerated.”
Soon after Trump took office, the New York Times (NYT) indicated that the president intended to keep his pledge and keep Gitmo operating, reversing eight years of his predecessor’s policy.
Former President Obama failed to keep his promise to shut down the facility, which as a candidate he claimed he would do on his first day in office.
Although some of the Gitmo prisoners released by Obama have returned to terrorist activities or are suspected or doing so, the former president did not incarcerate any new jihadists at the facility.
The Associated Press (AP) reports:
Obama’s Justice Department maintained that the U.S. civilian court system was the most legally sound forum in which to prosecute terror suspects captured in the U.S. and overseas and cited hundreds of convictions in New York and other cities as proof.
Yet Sessions and other Republicans have long expressed concern that civilian courts afford legal protections to which suspected terrorists are not entitled. He has warned that valuable intelligence can be lost if a detainee is advised of his right to remain silent and to have a lawyer.
President Trump has lambasted Obama for reducing the number of jihadists down from 242 at the start of his tenure to 41 by the time he left.
In February, NYT reported what it claimed to be the latest version of a draft intended to spell out Trump’s policy to keep Gitmo in operation.
Sessions does agree with those who oppose keeping the prison open in that the military judicial system is taking too long to try Gitmo prisoners.
It is time to “get this thing figured out,” the AG told Hewitt.
“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,” he said,
“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,” added Sessions.