Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gitmo On The Plains

Lets track the three kinds of prisoners at Gitmo.
  1. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others, against whom the government feels they have really good evidence, are to be criminally charged and tried in federal court.
  2. Another group, against whom the evidence isn't so good will be tried before military commissions.
  3. A final group, against whom there's apparently no evidence, will simply remain prisoners forever.
Such is American justice in the Obama administration. The more clearly you're guilty, the more fairly you're treated. That seems backwards, perhaps. Indeed, the whole thing is not just backwards, it's perverse.

Consider what happens if the plan goes awry. Imagine, somehow, that KSM is acquitted. What then? Daniel Newhauser at The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, covering a Senate hearing last week at which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified, noted that John Cornyn (R. Texas, former trial judge and Texas Supreme Court Justice) was worried that if KSM and his buddies were acquitted,
they might, apply for asylum if their home countries wouldn’t take them back or that they might receive special immigration rights or even legal immigrant status.
Sure. And maybe we'll make them honorary citizens and give them the keys to the city and perhaps pay them damages for the time they spent at Gitmo.

Not to worry, Napolitano told him. They'd be deported immediately.
“In the off chance that there were to be an acquittal for these individuals, they would immediately be put into removal proceedings and be deported.” She said, “They are paroled…into the country only for the purposes of prosecution. There are no immigration benefits that accrue to that.”
Cornyn wasn't satisfied.
[W]hat guarantees do we have that he can be detained indefinitely, either here or somewhere else?
Napolitano said that there was really no issue because they'd all be convicted. (She didn't add, as Obama did, that they'd also be executed, but she might as well have. You know she thinks so.) But that's denying the question, not answering it. The answer of course, is that nobody's going to let them go.

If acquitted, they'll be locked up forever unless we can deport them somewhere where we'll be sure they'll be tortured and then killed. Nobody will say that, because it admits the truth about these upcoming trials. Even KSM and the boys who get the proper federal criminal trials won't really get the full panoply of constitutional protections. There'll be one that's missing: If you're found not guilty, you're released.

And so we come to the news that Obama wants to move Gitmo to Illinois.

Remember that pledge to close it in a year. Remember that he won't meet that goal. But at least now he's figured out what to do with the folks there. Move them to the Illinois/Iowa border, just south of Wisconsin. There, on the plains, in the middle of the country. Thomson, Illinois. Take over a mostly empty maximum security prison and make it maximumer and extra secure. And put the folks now at Gitmo there.

The ones we don't kill. The ones against whom we have no evidence that they have done anything or would do anything but who are too dangerous to free. And the ones, if there are any, who are actually found not guilty.

Gitmo has to be closed because it's a national, and especially an international embarassment. A symbol of a 21st Century version of The Ugly American. it has to be closed because promising to close it is part of how Obama isn't Shrub and therefore somehow deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

But there's enough Shrub in Obama that closing it is a problem for him. What to do?

Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA policy director for (counter) terrorism and human rights, put it succinctly.
The only thing that President Obama is doing with this announcement is changing the Zip Code of Guantanamo.
We're still going to be holding people forever without charges or trials. We'll just do it on the mainland.

And it's an interesting place. 55 miles south of Cuba City, Wisconsin. 116 miles north of Cuba, Illinois. Guantanamo on the mainland, right near the Cubas of the midwest.

Which, I guess, suggests that maybe there is a place to which we can deport KSM if he's acquitted. After all, there'll be all those empty cells at the original Gitmo we can stick him.

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