On his first full day of office, President Barack Obama ordered that Guantanamo Bay prison be closed within a year. Great! Now what? The new president was unclear what steps would be taken next.
The SF Chronicle echoes: What now? What will happen to the 244 suspected al-Qaida prisoners in limbo at "Gitmo," as it is popularly called. Not to mention, there are more than 1,000 more prisoners in Afghanistan.
Many U.S. politians are doubting that the task can be completed in one year. House Minority Leader John Boehner keeps repeating that San Francisco's beautiful Alcatraz Island-- former prison, now a museum and National Park-- may be converted into a new prison for suspected terrorists. Everywhere from Fort Bragg to Fort Leavenworth-- the military's only maximum-security prison, to Camp Pendleton in San Diego has been suggested for the Guantanamo prisoner's new place of residence. Is it enough just to move the prisoners from Gitmo, or should their crimes be further investigated?
Gitmo has long been a sign of President Bush's unjust war on terror because of the lack of trials and the torture that went on there. But will prisoners return to a life of terrorism and pose a threat to national security?
Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of New York University's Center on Law and Security and the author of the forthcoming book The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days, told the Washington Post about Gimo recidivism:
On recidivism, the Pentagon has said that 18 of the detainees are believed to have returned to terrorism. Another 43 are suspected but the Pentagon does not claim that they are engaged in terrorism. There are three cases of Gitmo detainees returning to the fight at high levels, according to reports. But the recidivism rate is relatively low, as 557 have been released overall. It's important to emphasize that good judgment is needed in terms of deciding who leaves just as it should have been more important in deciding who to send to Gitmo in the first place.In the past week alone, two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners have reemerged as al-Qaida terrorists in Saudi Arabia, despite that prisoners who return to Saudi Arabia are put through "reprogramming" by psychiatrists, Muslim clerics and sociologists. AP reports that this "is part of a concerted Saudi government effort to counter the ideology that nurtured the 9/11 hijackers and that has lured hundreds of Saudis to join the Iraq insurgency. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, were Saudis, as is the mastermind of the attacks, Osama bin Laden."
Will the detox at Guantoanamo Bay prison and the rehabilitation efforts by the government of Saudi Arabia be enough? Only time will tell.
However, families of 9/11 victims are encouraging Obama to not release the prisoners without a trial. Three families want to meet with Obama and "appeal his decision to suspend the trials of five detainees in Gitmo who have admitted they have some part in the terror attacks." They have written a public letter that can be read in full here.
We cannot understand why it has taken so long for the prosecution of the detainees in cases where substantial evidence exists of direct or indirect involvement in the Terrorist Attacks at the WTC, Pentagon and Shanksville ... We have seen first hand -- the admission of guilt by individual detainees, and have heard their statements indicating they are proud of what they did to our loved ones on 9/11.I am happy to see President Obama end illegal holding and torture-- the evil push-it-under-the-rug details of Bush's war on terror-- but I too hope that trials will be held. We should gather facts and finish prosecuting those behind 9/11. Should the evidence be scant, then we must answer for why these prisoners have been held for years.