Brennan on Closing Guantanamo and the Fate of the Remainder of Yemeni Detainees
Below is the CNN transcript (received from CNN by e-mail, no link yet) of National Security Adviser John Brennan on its program State of the Union as to whether the Administration will continue to send Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen.
It seems to me he's confirming we're going to be holding some in indefinite custody without charges, probably at Illinois if that goes through. More will be slated for military trials.
As to those it decides on a case-by-case basis to send back to Yemen, "at the right time and the right pace and in the right way," I'm wondering whether he's signaling that the only ones who will be sent back are those the Yemenis agree to put in custody through their repatriation program. (See this Human Rights Watch report, No Direction Home, on how that's worked so far.) The complete transcript is below: [More...]
BORGER: And let's talk about Guantanamo then for a moment, too, because there are reports that at least one prisoner released from Guantanamo in 2006, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaysh, is now called the "theological guide," if you will, to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was involved in the Christmas Day plot. Does it make you rethink your decision to release six prisoners back into Yemen last month from Guantanamo?
BRENNAN: No, it doesn't, because that was the result of a very meticulous and rigorous process that we've had in place since the beginning of this administration. Now let me put some facts out here. The last administration released 532 detainees from Guantanamo. During this administration, we have transferred in fact 42 of these individuals overseas. I have been in constant dialogue with the Yemenis about the arrangements that are in place.
Several of those individuals were put into custody as soon as they returned to Yemen. So we are making sure that we don't do anything that is going to put American citizens, whether they be in Yemen or here in the States, at risk by our decisions about releasing -- transferring these detainees.
BORGER: So you have 90 prisoners remaining in Guantanamo that are from Yemen. Half of them were slated to be sent back home. There is word now that they're not going to be sent back home to Yemen. What are you going to do with them? Are you going to send them to Illinois?
BRENNAN: We haven't, you know, stopped the process as far as dealing with them. Many of them are going to be prosecuted, some under the Article III courts, and some under -- in military courts. Some of these individuals are going to be transferred back to Yemen at the right time and the right pace and in the right way. And under that arrangement...
BORGER: So they still will go back to Yemen. And what do you mean at the right time and place?
BRENNAN: Well, we made a decision that we would send back six because we were very pleased with the way of Yemeni government handled the one individual we sent back about eight weeks ago. And so we're making sure that the situation on the ground is taken into account. That we continue to work with the Yemeni government, and we do this in a very common-sense fashion because we want to make sure that we are able to close Guantanamo.
Guantanamo has been used as a propaganda tool by al Qaeda and others. We need to close that facility. And we're determined to do that.
BORGER: So -- so you're...
BRENNAN: The inmates that are there are going to be transferred back. Those that appropriate to go back, but also those that need to maintain -- stay in detention, we are going to do that.
BORGER: So these 40 or so that are slated -- let me just make this clear. That this 40 or so that are slated to be sent back to Yemen, they still will be sent back to Yemen?
BRENNAN: We make a decision about when they are going to be sent back and how they're going to be sent back and under what conditions. And when...
BORGER: Has this slowed it down, is what I'm asking.
BRENNAN: The attempted attack by Mr. Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day was a unique incident. We have been monitoring and watching the situation in Yemen develop over time. That one incident on the 25th of December doesn't change the situation on the ground in Yemen one bit.
We know that al Qaeda is out there. We know we have to be mindful of that. And we know that we have to take our steps with those detainees in a manner that is not going to put our citizens at risk. And we're not going to do that.
BORGER: So they will be sent back eventually?
BRENNAN: We're going to do it the right way at the right time.
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