Closing Gitmo: It Ain't Rocket Science

The Center for Constitutional Rights has issued a new report on closing Guantanamo. It's as easy as 1-2-3.

  • Send home those who can go home
  • Secure safe haven for those who cannot, and
  • Charge those who can be charged and try them in ordinary federal criminal court.

The full report is available here (pdf). [More...]

The report includes new and comprehensive numbers and lists of detainee status by nationality. Of the 250 men who remain, CCR says:

Most can be returned to their home countries through vigorous diplomacy. A smaller number need to be offered protection in the United States or third countries, many of whom have already begun to come forward to offer help to the new administration. There is no justification for continued detention without trial or the creation of special courts; such proposals would continue the human rights disaster rather than end it.

Update: The ACLU agrees. In a press release today, it says closing Gitmo should not be put on the back burner. Obama may have a full plate, but this is one that needs to be addressed quickly:

President-elect Obama is inheriting not only a financial market meltdown, but also a meltdown of a legal system under which the Bush administration has held individuals for years without charge, allowed torture and waterboarding and allowed hearsay evidence in specious military commissions. When the founding fathers broke away from England because of economic problems like taxation without representation, their very first act was to establish a set of laws. The Constitution came along well before the creation of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve because there is nothing more important in America than our rights and our values.

Closing Guantánamo and the military commissions is a matter of both reclaiming our international reputation and increasing our national security, and must be done immediately.

The ACLU provides these recommendations:
Each detainee's case must be reviewed by the new Justice Department. If there is evidence of criminal conduct – and one would hope that, after all these years, the government with its vast resources in the Defense Department, the Justice Department, the CIA and FBI would have collected untainted evidence against those detainees it claims are dangerous or guilty – detainees should be prosecuted in our traditional courts, which are the best in the world and fully capable of handling sensitive national security issues without compromising fundamental rights. If there is not, detainees should be repatriated to countries that don't practice torture. Fundamental and transformative change is neither incremental nor tentative.
It adds a message to Obama:
"President-elect Obama says he wants to look forward, but you can't look forward without looking back. You can't know where to go and how to get there without knowing where you've been. Only a full airing of the maladies that have plagued our democracy for eight years and an unconditional return to our fundamental values and the Constitution will give us back an America we can be proud of."
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    i was a tad (snark) (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by cpinva on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 12:58:59 PM EST
    disappointed when pres.-elect obama stated that it might take a while to close down GB. nonsense. as noted above, doing so is pretty easy. having the will to do so, not so much.

    either there's evidence (that can be used in court) of their criminal acts, or there isn't. if there is, try them in our courts. if there isn't, send them home or wherever they want to go, with our apologies.

    Chris Matthews (none / 0) (#35)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:22:50 PM EST
    teased a report at the opening of his show just now, but hasn't gotten to the story yet, that Obama will "begin the process" of closing Gitmo on day one after the inauguration.

    AP sez executive order in first week (none / 0) (#37)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:48:21 PM EST
    by Obama, maybe first day, to close Gitmo.  It's still going to take a while, but the executive order should reassure us all that he's really going to do it soon.

    Here's the brief AP piece.


    Sounds 100 days doable (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:03:13 PM EST
    Wonder why he won't commit?  Doesn't really bode well does it?

    What doesn't bode well (5.00 / 5) (#3)
    by oldpro on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:10:48 PM EST
    is the waffle language, the GWB "this is hard!" talk.

    It probably is.  So?  He didn't make it sound so hard when he was a candidate.  And now his primary opponent has to do the heavy lifting to find countries who will accept some of these folks who can't/won't be prosecuted.


    Don't go there, to the "hard" talk (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:18:35 PM EST
    please.  Did you catch his press conference this morning?  I did.  This morning he said, and I'm not making this up, "Hard things don't get done over night".  I said poor Laura, and doubled over laughing.

    Billie Holiday and Linda Ronstadt (none / 0) (#11)
    by oldpro on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:30:51 PM EST
    come to mind.  They produced great versions of "Crazy He Calls Me."  Remember that one?  Here's a memorable line...

    "The difficult I'll do right now
    The impossible will take a little while"

    Great melody too...


    Love that song (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by ruffian on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:33:21 PM EST
    Can't a man take his time (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by lilburro on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:11:53 PM EST
    and triangulate!?

    My guess.... (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:12:08 PM EST
    no cojones to do the right thing....sun god forbid an ex-detainee pulls something off and Obama is toast in 2012.  And every decision he makes is with an eye on 2012...so we can forget about anything necessary yet potentially risky or unpopular happening.

    That is the key (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by ruffian on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:45:44 PM EST
    The 2012 campaign has already started. Will any liberals seriously challenge him in the primaries, after seeing how much money he can raise? Doubtful.

    I wish he would define the left as center, as the country (minus the beltway high-Broderists) is practically begging him to do, instead of trying to find the center somewhere to the right.


    According to the Wiki (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:16:03 PM EST
    Only about 270 are known to remain, 1/5 are cleared to leave but no country is willing to take them (shouldn't the U.S. have to take them, I don't understand this?).  It is estimated that only 60 to 80 are "guilty" and in need of trial.  I remember how much legal representation was available free of charge protesting in Crawford because a lot of lawyers cared.  Just wondering what in the world could be the hold up that could make vacating Gitmo a longer than 100 day job?

    Can anyone name a firm , (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by ThatOneVoter on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:17:11 PM EST
    concrete promise Obama has made since the
    election? I'm really tired of his litany of things he can't do.

    Well, Obama isn't a rocket scientist (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Cream City on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:28:49 PM EST
    so all will be fine, since it doesn't take a rocket scientist to fix this.  

    Just go back to planning your party for a week from today.  And buy your collectibles now!


    I'm not buying a plate (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:34:33 PM EST
    before the dude is even President.  What if he's a lousy President?  What if he turns out to be the second worst President we've ever had? Then I'll have this pricey plate that isn't even food safe to cover up with deviled eggs.

    Regardless Tracy (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by CDN Ctzn on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:14:03 PM EST
    They're sure to be collectables!!! And in this economy, they're as secure as any other investment we can make. So buy, buy, buy! Plus, they make a great gift.

    Okay, I'm stupid (none / 0) (#47)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 01:15:13 PM EST
    Because we're fairly certain at this point that our money is going into tax free municipal bonds for projects we believe in to rebuild infrastructure and employ the family down the street.  I have plates to eat on, and I never have been one to have these plate collections that aren't used for food.  It just isn't my style.  I'd rather make certain the family down the street has food on their plates and public transit happens and bridges stop falling on us.  I know, I'm simple, also.....my great Uncle made a flippin killing on the new Denver Airport.

    Now people want to talk about firm (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:20:39 PM EST
    promises from Obama after George's "hard things".  This thread is cracking me up in my own little world.

    Hmmm (none / 0) (#36)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:42:25 PM EST
    It doesn't look like Obama ever promised to shut down Gitmo in the first 100 days. It was a challenge by the ACLU et al.

    He promised to shut down Guantanamo and was evidentially responding to ACLU, CCR et al, demand that he shut down the offshore prison in 100 days.

    The organization [ACLU] has written to President-elect Obama to urge him to ensure that closing Guantánamo, ending torture and other ill-treatment, and supporting a commission of inquiry are among his priorities for his first 100 days in office.



    New Promise (none / 0) (#38)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:52:50 PM EST
    President-elect Barack Obama is to issue an [executive] order to close the Guantánamo detention centre in his first week in office, according to his advisers.

    Obama, who takes over the presidency next Tuesday, will make closure one of his first decisions, two of his advisers told the AP news agency.

    The pledge comes only the day after Obama appeared to row back from campaign promises by saying closure was more complicated than he had realised and it would be a challenge to do so in his first 100 days in office.



    Where's the change? (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:43:09 PM EST
    I had hoped that Obama would bring a new approach to our foreign policies. We've suffered immeasurable damage over the last eight years due to Bush and Company (with a fair amount of help from the Democrat's).

    We've become one of the most hated countries on the planet. Our disregard of international law and our unilateral approach has turned a lot of our allies against us. Even moderate Muslems have turned away.

    We can't make any inroads on this situation while Gitmo is still out there as a symbol to the rest of the world.

    Had Hoped? (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:45:33 PM EST
    I had hoped that Obama would bring a new approach to our foreign policies.

    Inauguration is on the 20th, hard to believe the guy is not president yet, but it is true.


    So (5.00 / 5) (#21)
    by jbindc on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:52:13 PM EST
    Despite what he is saying now, on the 12th, he is going to do a 180 and all will be right with the world on the 20th?  We can't take him for his word until he is sworn in?

    If You Doubt His Word (none / 0) (#23)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:56:06 PM EST
    Why are you all of a sudden believing him now?  If anything the game is hardly over as you suggest, it has not started yet.

    Because (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by jbindc on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:08:00 PM EST
    We have no choice but to take him at his word.  He's going to be running things.

    Many don't of us don't believe him to begin with.


    Get Over It (5.00 / 0) (#27)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:11:13 PM EST
    He is a pol, just like the rest. Just like Hillary, but both of them are a vastly different from BushCo.

    That you fail to see this suggests you have a blockage.


    I'm afraid... (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by pmj6 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:20:46 PM EST
    ...the events will prove that your confidence in Obama was misplaced. I think there's much less daylight between Obama and Bush on most major issues than between Bush and Clinton, or Obama and Clinton,  empty campaign rhetoric notwithstanding.

    WOw (5.00 / 0) (#34)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:39:34 PM EST
    You are living in a dream world. Do your homework rather than spout out nonsense. Obama and Hillary were/are almost identical in their policies, senate votes and bipartisan impulses.

    The fact that Obama has selected a huge majority of Clinton administration people as opposed to BushCo people should tip you off. Perhaps you should lay off the kool aid.


    Yep (5.00 / 5) (#22)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:54:43 PM EST
    I'm not the one that said I would close Gitmo my first one days. He did. I'm also not the one that now says it isn't going to happen. He did. So yes, I stick by my "had hoped".

    lol (none / 0) (#24)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:57:46 PM EST
    Picking and choosing what to believe? If Obama is a liar as you suggest, why are you so invested in believing him now?

    A Born Optimist! (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:15:52 PM EST
    If your comment was directed at me, I said hoped, not believed. There's a big difference in the two. I have no illusions about politicians at all. And Obama is a politician.  

    If I have a choice... (5.00 / 3) (#33)
    by pmj6 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:23:42 PM EST
    ...between a statement made before an election and one after the election, I usually tend to believe the stuff said after the election, when you no longer must lie to win over voters. So if Obama, now that he's safely the President for the next four years, is backtracking on his earlier Gitmo promises in contradiction of his earlier statements, I tend to think he is now telling us what he really thinks.

    Even after the election (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Cream City on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:54:22 PM EST
    in a CBS interview in mid-November, asked about closing Guantanamo, Obama agreed that he would do so "right away."

    Just for future reference, if we see agreement again to take action immediately . . . uh, right away . . . uh, soon.


    I forgot (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Cream City on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 05:23:39 PM EST
    "quickly," today's applicable adverb.

    But Amnesty International is experienced at tis and renews its request from last Friday for a specific date -- not for ordering it to be closed, which ought fool only the foolish, but for actually closing it.


    First Week In Office (2.00 / 1) (#42)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 05:27:22 PM EST
    This is today's statement clearly in response to ALCU and CCR plea last week. that Obama close GItmo in his first 100 days, not the other way around as you would have it.

    not so fast squeaky (5.00 / 3) (#43)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 05:46:52 PM EST
    issuing an order to close it is not the same as closing it. See the aclu press release.

    "While the news from unnamed sources in the Obama transition team about the closing of Guantánamo is certainly welcome, what we need are specifics about the timeline for the shuttering of the military commissions and the release or charging of detainees who have been indefinitely held for years. Executive orders are an important first step. But we trust that President-elect Obama will provide a detailed plan for ending the Guantánamo military commissions, shutting down the Guantánamo military prison and ending President Bush's legacy of indefinite detention. An executive order lacking such detail, especially after the transition team has had months to develop a comprehensive plan on an issue this important, would be insufficient. What we need is an executive order that is less about rhetoric and more about a detailed plan - and we're hoping that that is what President-elect Obama has planned for January 20."

    Yes I Know That (none / 0) (#44)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 06:03:05 PM EST
    Obviously Obama is listening, the demand from the ACLU and CCR last week, and blogs like TL, has prompted him to get moving on the issue.

    I see this as responsive and we need to keep on him, as well as do whatever we can to move things along. The you statement you quote by the ACLU in response to his most recent promise, is just right, imo.


    Looks Like He Is Doing It (none / 0) (#40)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:56:41 PM EST
    The latest:

    President-elect Barack Obama is to issue an order to close the Guantánamo detention centre in his first week in office, according to his advisers.



    Cheney has now had a chance (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by weltec2 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 06:18:20 PM EST
    to draw BO into his darkened lair where he has been able to inform BO of just how deeply the Democratic leadership is implicated in Bush \ Cheney criminal activity. This encounter with the Dark Lord must have been deeply sobering even breathtaking... and BO has the look of a man taking a very deep breath right now.

    We've taken a probably very well-meaning guy with very little experience (developing back muscles for the spine) and no track record (demonstrating spinal strength) and said "Now you're the Pres Elect... you go play hardball for us with Dick Cheney." How ridiculous is that? ...even cruel in a way.

    After caving on FISA and so many other things can anyone be surprised that at the end of the day his spine is looking weaker under the load of his promises. Let's hope he doesn't end up in traction by the end of his first 100 days.

    Ask yourself... (none / 0) (#13)
    by pmj6 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:36:00 PM EST
    ..."what would Bush and Cheney do?", and the answer will be strongly predictive of what the Obama administration will do.

    In this case, I predict one of two things:

    1. Guantanamo stays open out of fear that if only one of these former detainees joins the Taliban or so much as badmouths the US once released, the GOP will pile on with accusations that Obama hates America because he's a Muslim.

    2. Guantanamo goes domestic. We get Patriot Act on steroids, giving the President an actual statutory authority (as opposed to powers constitutional scholars for hire have dreamed up for Bush/Cheney) to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects (why not, the Democrats already authorized illegal wiretaps...), also out of fear the GOP will accuse them of being soft on terrorism.

    You mean like Clinton? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Socraticsilence on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:22:27 PM EST
    So basically you think he's going to pull a Bill Clinton and do whatever's politically expedient?

    No,... (5.00 / 5) (#31)
    by pmj6 on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:18:26 PM EST
    ...I don't think this is an apt comparison. Clinton was fighting a rearguard action against an ascendant GOP with little help from the Congressional Dems. Even though Obama is facing no similar constraint, he is already shaping up to be a right-of-center President all the same.

    I mean, he's already sounding as if he is into benefit cuts in the major Federal entitlement programs, like Medicare and Social Security. Would either of the Clintons be OK with any of that?


    I was (shudder) thinking about your # 2... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:22:53 PM EST
    as well, they will find a way to move the gulag to a domestic location while claiming a human rights "victory" by closing Gitmo in classic Orwellian fashion...or simply rendition all the prisoners to gulags in friendly totalitarian countries where people don't get worked up over habeus or torture.

    What A Mess BushCo Created (none / 0) (#14)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:15:02 PM EST
    Fortunately Obama has made it clear that he is willing to talk to Countries that BushCo refused to have any dialogue with. As the CCR report points out that most detainees can be returned to their home country through vigorous diplomacy.

    Canada hasn't moved to seek Khadr's extradition and has been silent amid world condemnation of the prison camp.

    Before trying to persuade countries that have already refused to take detainees like Australia, Obama is going to have to use vigorous diplomacy on Kathleen Sibelius and Sen. Sam Brownback who are refusing to take any detainees and actively lobbying against it.   Ft Leavenworth is evidentially the only maximum security military prison in the US and a natural place for the small number of gitmo detainees who should not be released before getting a trial.

    Seems that other countries are not going to take anyone if we refuse to take them, even in a US prison.

    Just wondering (none / 0) (#30)
    by coast on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:17:51 PM EST
    If these are such upstanding citizens of their respective countries who have been wrongly held for no known reason and should be released immediately with our sincerest apologies, why will no country accept them?

    Thanks for those cites (none / 0) (#46)
    by joanneleon on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 07:58:30 PM EST
    I felt sure that lawyers and organizations like the ACLU had already worked out solutions for Gitmo.  It's great to see them laid out in writing.

    I find this announcement about an executive order to close Gitmo in Obama's first week to be a bit deceptive.  If not deceptive, we're just not getting a straight answer, and on this campaign promise, he needs to deliver with transparency.

    I am so glad that the lawyers and law organizations are coming forward quickly on this one.  This was a direct campaign promise that is clearly "doable" and if Obama is going to break that promise of closing Gitmo in 100 days, I want a clear and straight answer explaining why.  

    All during that primary campaign, different candidates made it crystal clear how important it was to hit the ground running.  This administration can't stall and start from scratch on every single issue.  They are going to have to take the advice of the experts and go with it.  

    Plus, I think it's really foolish to break campaign promises right out of the gate.  Obama has a ton of political capital right now.  It's just plain foolish to waste it on things like this when he doesn't have to.  I really hope he doesn't learn the hard way, like GWB did, about how fickle political capital is.  We all need that political capital right now to save our butts in about a hundred different ways.

    Lastly, I think it's fantastic that ACLU added that message about accountability at the end.  I hope he is listening and doesn't discard that advice because it's "too liberal" an organization.

    jurisdiction? (none / 0) (#48)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:41:32 PM EST
    How can the US take someone from the fields of Afghanistan and charge them in CIVILIAN court in the US?  Sort of like Iran kidnapping Cheney and trying him in an Iranian civilian court.  If they are unlawful enemy combatants located outside US terrritory when they were caught then they have a legal status which does not guarantee civilian trials.  If they really are prisoners of war then they have no rights to release or trial for the duration of the conflict.  

    is diogenes pronounced dye-oh-jeans or dee-ah-jen-ess? Or something else?