Guantanamo to Stay Open Through Bush's Presidency
Friday, Tony Snow dashed any hopes that Guantanamo would be closed during Bush's presidency.
It's highly unlikely that you can dispense with all those cases between now and the end of the administration," White House spokesman Tony Snow said of about 385 prisoners currently at the Guantanamo facility. Asked directly whether the prison would close before Bush leaves office in January 2009, Snow said, "I doubt it, no."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently advocated the closure of Guantanamo.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested during his first weeks in office in January, in conversations with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and White House national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, that the prison be closed and the inmates transferred to facilities on U.S. soil. Three senior defense officials said yesterday that Gates was concerned that Guantanamo's notoriety would undermine the credibility of military commissions as they begin this year.
The officials said that Justice Department lawyers explained to Gates their concern that the detainees not come under the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, which might grant them legal rights that the department had been fighting for years. Gates's high-level intervention on the issue was first reported in yesterday's New York Times.
But, of course his opinion doesn't matter. Why would the Bush Administration care about the rights of detainees? They never have.
The ACLU has written a letter to Gates, commending him for his stance on closing Guantanamo (no link, received by e-mail.)
It was certainly no surprise that the Times report says that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is a strong opponent of closing down Guantánamo. In his days as White House counsel, Gonzales wrote in a 2002 memorandum that referred to some of the restrictions of the Geneva Convention as “quaint” and the portion on questioning enemy prisons “obsolete.” That’s exactly the sort of attitude that has led him, in both his White House and Justice Department roles, to subordinate and twist the law in order to offer up flimsy, transparently indefensible justifications for torture.
It is now more than five years since the first detainees were sent to Guantánamo, with no access to courts, no meaningful contact with their families and no prospect of being charged and tried. Detainees are treated this way:
- They lose habeas corpus, the right to seek release from unlawful imprisonment.
- They lose the right to due process under the law.
- They are subject to having testimony used against them that was derived from abusing or beating witnesses.
- They lose the right to be told why they are being held indefinitely without being charged or even of what they are being accused of having done.
At Guantánamo, this treatment goes on and on for an indefinite period. The detainees are locked up and out of sight, out of communication and left to rot in the equivalent of a modern day detention camp.
These actions are an anathema to the core values of our country. Many of the detainees are believed to be innocent – victims of Afghan and Pakistani bounty hunters who rounded them up and sold them to U.S. forces for large rewards. But regardless of how heinous a crime someone is suspected of committing, we diminish ourselves and our nation when we fail to provide rudimentary defense rights to the accused.
I couldn't have said it better.
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