That Lead Astray: Closing Guantanamo
By Patrick Dunleavy
February 24, 2016
We often hear the line from a Robert Burns poem, "The
best laid schemes of mice and men, often go askew," invoked when someone's
grandiose plans blow up in one's face.
That may be what we're in store for if President Obama's
recently announced plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and place
terrorists on U.S. soil is able to proceed unilaterally without congressional
approval. This time, the danger in the plan is to the American people.
Slowly over the years he has been in office, Obama has
released numerous terrorists to other countries without adequate provisions to
prevent them from returning to the battlefield against U.S. soldiers and
One recent case is that of Ibrahim
al Qosi. He was a member of al-Qaida and a personal aide to Osama bin Laden
who was released from Guantanamo in 2012 and sent to Sudan. He recently appeared
in a video as a spokesperson for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
In the video, "Guardians of Sharia," he calls on
people to commit acts of jihad. Clearly his time in Guantanamo did nothing to
rehabilitate him. He is the classic recidivist.
The fact that ex-cons often get released from prison
neither rehabilitated nor transformed is nothing new. Recidivism rates for
common criminals continue to be an issue for sociologists and criminologists to
However, how to effectively prevent the phenomenon of a
captured terrorist coming out of prison and returning to fight in the jihad is
relatively unknown to law enforcement and counter terrorism experts. A recent
Congressional Research Service report
announced that as many as 100 inmates convicted of terror related crimes will be
released in the next five years. When faced with the question of rehabilitation
strategies for those terrorists about to be released, John Carlin, the Justice
Department's Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said,
"There are [rehabilitation] programs for drug addicts and gang members.
There is not one [program] with a proven track record of success for
Which brings us to the administration's
plan to close the Guantanamo detention center, something it cannot do
without congressional approval, by either releasing detainees to other countries
or by transferring them to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Both options are dangerously foolish and fraught with
peril. Releasing terrorists to a neutral country does not ensure that they will
not be able to travel or reconnect with former jihadist associates, as Ibrahaim
al Qosi did.
Placing them in the Bureau of Prisons will not restrict
them from influencing other inmates to their cause.
Case in point: John Walker Lindh, otherwise known as the
"American Taliban," who was captured in Afghanistan fighting alongside
al-Qaida, is one of the 100 inmates to be released from a U.S. prison in the
near future. Lindh recently won a lawsuit filed in federal court challenging the
BOP's authority to restrict his movement and interaction with other inmates.
He is now allowed to co-mingle with other potential
jihadists at least five times a day. The fact that he was chosen by the other
inmates as their spokesman and amir – the leader of the inmate Muslim
community – demonstrates his influence.
The president's plan to close Guantanamo lacks any
specificity about where the remaining terrorists will be housed. That type of
vagueness is fraught with danger to the American people. Congressional leaders
must take firm decisive action to stop the president's plan to close Guantanamo.
Captured or convicted terrorists must be kept behind bars in their current
location, Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay. The administration's current "catch
and release" program in the war on terrorism simply is not working.