White House has given up on shutting down Guantanamo Bay: report
President Barack Obama will have the final word on whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be given a trial or whether the man dubbed the “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks will remain imprisoned without trial indefinitely, the Washington Post reports.
Peter Finn and Anne Kornblut write that conservative opposition to a civilian trial in Manhattan and liberal opposition to a military tribunal are prompting the administration to consider simply not trying Mohammed at all.
The administration has concluded that it cannot put Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters.
The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.
The Post adds that the White House “has made it clear that President Obama will ultimately make the decision.” If a trial does happen, it won’t be before the next presidential election. And even then a trial would require “a different political environment.”
The report’s assertion that the administration is considering abandoning military tribunals because of “liberal opposition” suggests confusion within the White House on how to proceed with trials of Guantanamo detainees. The administration has seen fit to convict Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen captured in Afghanistan at age 15, in a military tribunal. A plea deal that saw Khadr admit guilt in the murder of a US Army Sgt. Christopher Speer was criticized as a “????.”
Last year, the New York Times reported that Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times while in US custody. A debate has raged back and forth over whether the torture led to any actionable intelligence.
The Post also reports that the White House has effectively given up on shutting down Guantanamo Bay, a key promise in Obama’s presidential campaign.
Administration officials also think that they will probably not secure the funding and legal authority from Congress to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and transfer any remaining detainees to the United States. There are 174 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, down from 241 when Obama took office. Diplomatic efforts continue to reduce that number through the resettlement or repatriation of detainees cleared for transfer by an interagency task force.
But, one official said, “Gitmo is going to remain open for the foreseeable future.”