President Obama presented a "plan" yesterday for closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. It really wasn't much of a plan.
It was mostly a statement that having the facility doesn't fit in with our values (it does with mine) and some very vague ideas for dealing with the dispersal of dangerous men caught on the battlefield. Some would be brought to maximum security prisons in the U.S., which under current law is illegal.
A Wall Street Journal editorial notes of the president's call for closing the facility:
It’s not going to happen—at least not if Mr. Obama follows the law. Polls show the American people oppose closing Gitmo by about two to one, politicians in both parties oppose closing it, and the past seven years have taught that the camp plays an important role in keeping America safe.
One reason is because Americans have figured out that the alternative is bringing these terrorists to the mainland. It’s easy to call for Gitmo’s closure in the abstract. It’s harder to explain to voters why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other killers may soon move into a prison near you.
No doubt this explains why the Pentagon plan submitted to Congress on Tuesday is so vague on details—especially the names of the “appropriate site[s] in the continental United States” where the detainees would be sent. One likely destination would be the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, which explains why Democratic Senator Michael Bennet rejects Mr. Obama’s plan.
The rub here is the last half of the second sentence–"if Mr. Obama follows the law." He often doesn't. Some of the more nervous among us are worried that the president will attempt to act unilaterally on this. It would set up a battle that could make an already-bizarre political year even more so.
It was also noted by a critic of the plan that putting a terrorist in a U.S. prison could make the area a target for sympathetic terrorists.
There was a good reason for setting up Gitmo: it was, as the Journal points out, a secure facility for holding people who had broken the laws of war but could not be prosecuted in a civilian court and were dangerous to the U.S. if set free. It also was a place where detainees could be interrogated. On the last, this is how we get intelligence to defend ourselves against terror.
Because the Obama foreign policy has helped turn the always-boiling Middle East into a cauldron of terror, we may need Gitmo as much in the future as in the past. It is important to our defense. But here is one scenario by which we lose this resource:
It’s possible that Mr. Obama’s Tuesday plan is merely one more political set-up, that what he really intends is to issue another executive order closing Guantanamo if Congress won’t go along with his proposals. On Tuesday the President didn’t threaten such an action, but he also didn’t rule it out.
Hillary Clinton wouldn’t want him to do so before Election Day, lest she have to defend the prisoner transfer. But anything is possible with this President after the election—especially if a Democrat wins. He knows she would be inclined to let his order stand.
If the president does this, it not only will be harmful to our defense. It will be another sing, if any is needed, that we are living in a post-Constitution age.