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National Security

Gitmo's 'Going Out of Business' Sale

Obama is closing the prison a few released jihadis at a time.

Michael Swartz · Dec. 11, 2015

Within days after taking office, Barack Obama pompously penned an executive order closing the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Seven years later, the facility remains open due to strenuous objections to moving Gitmo’s occupants stateside (or elsewhere) as well as concerns over the cost of closing the prison. A recent Defense Department proposal pegged the cost as $600 million, which includes separate holding facilities around the country for the remaining detainees.

Frustrated at the lack of progress, some in Obama’s camp want him to go the executive order route again and with a stroke of a pen magically make the holding cells disappear. In reality, though, Obama has stepped up the pace of releasing prisoners over the last several months with another five transferred to the United Arab Emirates this week. The current population of 107 may be in double-digits by year’s end if Obama has his way. Last month, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest intoned, “I’m not aware of any ongoing effort to devise a strategy using only the president’s executive authority to accomplish this goal. But I certainly wouldn’t … take that option off the table.”

Going it alone is never off of Obama’s table.

Emptying out the camp may be a campaign promise, but it also leaves the enormous risk of former prisoners returning to the battlefield, like a certain Yemeni al-Qaida leader.

According to Thomas Joscelyn in The Long War Journal, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a new video featuring a former Guantanamo detainee, Ibrahim Qosi, who is also known as Sheikh Khubayb al Sudani. In July 2010, Qosi plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism before a military commission. His plea was part of a deal in which he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors during his remaining time in US custody. Qosi was transferred to his home country of Sudan two years later, in July 2012. Qosi joined AQAP in 2014 and became one of its leaders.”

Critics like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) call the prospect of executive action one that would be “the most brazen assertion of executive power in over a century and spark a grave constitutional crisis.” Cotton correctly claims that Congress has the right to “make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water” as specified in the Constitution.

There’s evidence that Obama’s rush to score political points and keep his promise to the radical peacenik crowd has already placed him outside the law. A damning report released by the House Armed Services Committee found that Obama “clearly broke the law” by failing to notify Congress of his outrageous release of five Gitmo detainees in exchange for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl before the 30-day notification period prescribed by law. On top of that, the report also accuses the commander in chief of having “misled” Congress on the status of the negotiations for Bergdahl’s release, which netted the enemy the return of a high-value group dubbed the “Taliban Five.” Last year on these pages we rued the tragic fact that six good men died in the search for Bergdahl.

(As a side note, a new exposé reveals how Bergdahl viewed himself as some sort of “Jason Bourne.” His delusions of grandeur don’t justify the swap, either.)

This much we know, however: The fact that men associated with Islamic terrorism soon may either be released to eventually return to their home countries (and the battlefield) or relocated to prisons on the American mainland is the sort of propaganda victory the enemy can use for recruitment or radicalization. Yet Obama keeps telling conservatives that our policies — including keeping Gitmo open — amount to “doing exactly what the terrorists want.”

Considering that Congress has repeatedly attempted to deny funding to close Guantanamo, the question of who’s more competent concerning national security is worth pondering as we begin to close the book on the Obama era.

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