The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.You think?
The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.
“They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”
The development came as Republican legislators criticized the plan to close the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp in the absence of any measures for dealing with current detainees. But it also helps explain why the new administration wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the complications.
Almost half the camp’s remaining detainees are Yemenis, and efforts to repatriate them depend in part on the creation of a Yemeni rehabilitation program — partly financed by the United States — similar to the Saudi one. Saudi Arabia has claimed that no graduate of its program has returned to terrorism.
“The lesson here is, whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep a close eye on them,” the American official said.
But check out the Wall Street Journal's lead editorial today, in any case, "Obama and Guantanamo":
Campaign promises are so much easier to adhere to when they're strictly hypothetical, as Barack Obama is discovering. The then-President-elect said 10 days ago on ABC that while he still plans to close Guantanamo, "it is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize" and that "many" of the enemy combatants are "very dangerous."There's more at the link.
Merely for gesturing at this reality, Mr. Obama suffered the blunt-force trauma of his left-wing allies, and the panicked transition leaked new details on the Administration's intentions last week. On Tuesday the Pentagon halted military commissions at Guantanamo for 120 days, and reports as we went to press yesterday said Mr. Obama would sign an executive order today that the base be closed within a year. This was after he told the Washington Post that closure might take even longer. Isn't responsibility fun?
The first practical question is where to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 245 or so other remaining Gitmo prisoners. Dangerous enemy combatants can't simply be released into the streets. The Obama camp says that after reviewing the classified files, it will try to repatriate as many as safely possible. But 60 already cleared for release remain because they may be persecuted by their home countries. And even Mr. Obama's vaunted diplomacy is unlikely to convince rights-protecting countries to resettle people he believes are too dangerous to release in the U.S. -- and the more willing Mr. Obama is to release prisoners, the more difficult this problem will become.
One suggestion is moving the remaining prisoners to Kansas's Fort Leavenworth, but state politicians are already sounding a red alert. The military base is integrated into the community and, lacking Guantanamo's isolation and defense capacities, would instantly become a potential terror target. Expect similar protests from other states that are involuntarily entered in this sweepstakes.
In any event, this option merely relocates Guantanamo to American soil under another name. The core challenge is not a matter of geography but ensuring a stable legal framework for detaining and punishing fighters engaged in unconventional warfare against the U.S.
The Journal makes the interesting point that now that Obama's in office, he's the one dealing with the brainless leftists who have no clue as to the next steps on Guantanamo detainees. This includes even hysterical "experts" like Glenn Greenwald, who's been harping about the "criminal" anti-terror policies of the Bush military commissions all week, while alternating between praise and poised-condemnation of Obama's "promising" actions on the "corrosive" lawlessness of the Bush administation's policies on Guantanamo, military commissions, "black sites," and who knows what else.
Sometimes the right thing to do (the Bush program) is so intuitively obvious that the warped opposition of the netroots hordes signifies nothing less than abject Bush derangement and the pursuit of raw nihilist power.