The bill also tightens restrictions on prisoner transfers from Gitmo to foreign countries. Such restrictions were likely animated by the Obama administration’s determination to repatriate several Yemeni inmates to their native country in January 2009, an idea also undone by reality: the attempted bombing of Detroit-bound Northwest flight on December 25, by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was trained by al Qaeda operatives based in Yemen.
Attorney General Eric Holder claims such a bill could place unconstitutional limitations on the Executive Branch’s right to make decisions about where to conduct terrorist prosecutions. Some conservative politicians agree, calling the bill “ill-considered. In a Wall Street Journal editorial, former Justice Department lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey characterized the bill as “a step too far,” and that the “president is the chief federal law enforcement officer and prosecutor” and “(W)hether, when and where to bring a particular prosecution lies at the very core of his constitutional power.”
It is still within the president’s power to veto the bill. Yet that is highly unlikely for two reasons: the comprehensive nature of the bill itself which goes far beyond the issue in terms of funding the Defense Department and the war effort; and the Obama administration’s announcement that they would be drafting an executive order calling for a regular review process for those detainees under indefinite detention. 48 of the 174 inmates remaining in the facility, considered “too dangerous to release,” fall into the indefinite detention category.
This bill also resolves earlier efforts made by the administration to house inmates in a facility in the state of Illinois. In 2009, the White House had approached the House Appropriations Committee, to see if they would be amenable to adding $200 million to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year in order upgrade Thomson Correctional Center, a nearly vacant maximum-security Illinois prison, to accommodate Gitmo inmates. The move would have required the federal government to purchase the prison from the state. The idea had little public support and the measure was subsequently dropped from the bill. This latest bill makes it clear that such an idea remains a political non-starter.
So too does closing Guantanamo Bay any time soon. No doubt such a reality is galling for many of the president’s supporters who, like the president himself, will have to come to grips with the idea that dealing with hard-core terrorists is substantially harder than they imagined. One can only wonder if the same people who excoriated the Bush administration for keeping its “American gulag” open for business will hammer the Obama administration for backtracking on his vow during his inaugural speech to “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Mr. Obama claims he has no problem with the way the facility is being run–now. Whether such a “time stamp” refers to a contrast to the manner in which the Bush administration operated the facility, or the fact that the responsibilities of the presidency undercut the arrogance of cheap campaign rhetoric is anyone’s guess.
Either way one thing is certain: for the overwhelming majority of Americans, a broken campaign promise beats the hell out of a terrorist attack perpetrated by a former Guantanamo Bay inmate.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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