Guantanamo: Catch and release is for fish, not terrorists
Yet radical lawyers and law professors, working pro bono for detainees, levied false torture claims and besmirched the suffering of Holocaust victims by equating Guantanamo with Auschwitz and other World War II-era death camps.
And although most detainees admitted their Islamist status and vow to attack Americans again if released, their radical legal advisers claimed detainees were “laborers, students, relief workers, goatherds, and farmers” captured far from battlefields; innocent victims of circumstances whose Guantanamo detention stained the national moral fabric and proved U.S. Islamophobia.
Capitalizing upon these shameful falsehoods, radicals demanded, and President Obama’s first foreign policy order was to declare, the release of Islamist detainees and the closure of Guantanamo as a national imperative.
When military and intelligence communities, Congress, and the American people bitterly opposed this nonsense-on-stilts, and when a firestorm of criticism incinerated administration plans to prosecute Guantanamo interrogators, radical law professors and lawyers sued, demanding the full panoply of constitutional rights for clients whose avowed objective was the destruction of that document.
Tragically, the Roberts Supreme Court upended the legal regime underpinning Guantanamo and gave the radicals almost everything they demanded. A decade of judicial miscarriages ushered Islamist detainees into federal civilian courts, granted them free lawyers, and conferred a “right” to review (and transmit to jihadists still in the field) U.S. intelligence sources, methods and personnel identities.
When the government chose to protect highly classified national security data by withholding it from detainees’ lawyers, courts ordered detainees’ immediate release.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration, chafing at legislative and popular resistance, undertook the incremental closure of Guantanamo by stealth. Shortly after entering office, it began releasing detainees it decided would not be prosecuted and no longer posed a threat by its standards.
Despite ample grounds, the Obama administration has prosecuted precious few detainees, designated only some 50 as too dangerous to release, and freed hundreds, quietly, in dribs and drabs, most of whom are as dangerous as pedophiles whom the U.S. justice system, consistent with a Supreme Court ruling, maintains in permanent civil detention to protect Americans.
Predictably, released Islamists, who never farmed, herded goats or provided relief services a single day in their lives, are not rehabilitated. Recidivism rates approach 50 percent. Hundreds are back to jihad. Dozens have killed American and allied soldiers. Scores have been recaptured.
Some have even been returned to Guantanamo.
While President Obama has long since reversed his campaign rhetoric, lauded Guantanamo as a “Geneva-compliant” facility, and tacitly acknowledged the falsity of torture claims, he persists in his obsessive plan to “leave it all on the field in 2016” in a final push to relocate Islamist detainees and shutter Guantanamo—by executive action if necessary.
More than one defense secretary has clashed with Obama over the issue. Congress has prohibited expenditure of any public funds to relocate the 107 remaining Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Individual members have taken to the stump to protest plans to relocate Islamists into their districts.
So why does Obama insist on his “catch-and-release” policy?
Set aside the view many Americans hold that Obama is an unvetted crypto-Muslim, a Manchurian candidate whose mission is to destabilize the Middle East, create and arm ISIS, and undermine our national military and intelligence capabilities.
There are good reasons to rid ourselves of Guantanamo detainees whether or not any of this is true.
First, Islamist groups won’t surrender. The expense and political burden of caging their fighters for the rest of their natural lives is great. Yet Guantanamo Islamists are a declining population, and the U.S., having withdrawn ground forces from the Middle East and shifted strategy to killing high-value Islamists with drones rather than killing and capturing them en masse with ground troops, will not be refilling Guantanamo anytime soon—at least until another administration gets serious in fighting ISIS. In 30 years, the natural human aging process will empty Guantanamo. Second, detainees have zero intelligence value. Any secrets they once held about planned operations against U.S. interests went stale years ago.
Whether Obama comprehends it or not, and whatever his true allegiance, Islamists are indeed like fish. They get bigger and older, and they add jihadi “meat on their bones” while awaiting release. Obama’s Guantanamo has become a finishing school that enhances a jihadi’s street credibility—in effect, a Ph.D. program in Jihadi Operations Management that punches promotion tickets. Indeed, the U.S. has been obliged to offer multimillion-dollar bounties for the recapture of Guantanamo alumni whose detentions aided their ascent to high command in al Qaeda and ISIS.
Recall that the U.S. can lawfully try, convict, and kill Islamists for terrorism and war crimes. It’s past time to scrap Obama’s catch-and-release policy and treat captured Islamists like snakeheads rather than yellow perch. We need to eradicate, not steward, the Islamist population. We don’t want them around next summer, and we don’t need them fighting harder and with greater jihadi acumen.
So let’s meet Obama halfway. Keep Guantanamo open, but empty it of its inmates. Try them, convict them, and kill them like the snakeheads they are. Then, when we get a president committed to fighting ISIS, we’ll have a place for our interrogators to do what they need to do to the next wave of captured Islamists—extract information that will keep us safe—before we prosecute and kill those snakeheads too.
It’s what my grandfather—and any rational American—would do.