Saturday, May 3, 2008

Right idea, wrong reason

First the good news — unnamed U.S. officials say the Bush administration could be planning to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by the end of its term in January, according to the Reuters international news service. Closure of the prison on the U.S. Navy Base on Cuba will remove an enormous black mark from the record of the United States, which has used the facility to imprison hundreds of foreign nations suspected of terrorism without formal charges or trials. Even President Bush acknowledges the damage Guantanamo has done to the country's reputation around the world. Then there's the bad news — the U.S. government is not planning to close Guantanamo because it violates due process rights guaranteed by the Constitution but because it anticipates a scathing ruling by the Supreme Court in the next few weeks. The court is expected to issue a ruling shortly on whether Guantanamo inmates are entitled to civil rights under U.S. law, and the administration obviously wants to get ahead of the decision. "If the Supreme Court concludes that the detainees have constitutional rights, then there would be little legal difference between holding them in Guantanamo or holding them on the mainland," one senior official said, according to Reuters. "It's possible the Supreme Court decision could provide an impetus to a policy decision to close Guantanamo." One official who spoke to Reuters on the record, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, said the Bush administration has accepted the need to close the prison. "Everyone is agreed that we need to find a way that eventually leads to the closure of Guantanamo, which is the president's policy decision," Johndroe said. "It is a very complicated matter." There still are more 270 prisoners at Guantanamo and many of them have been held for years, Reuters said. "We would like to move towards the day when we can eventually close Guantanamo," Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon said. "We do not want to be the world's jailer." said Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. Nevertheless, the Pentagon is making plans to relocate Guantanamo inmates to military prisons on the U.S. mainland, such as the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and naval facility in South Carolina, Reuters said.

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