Commentary Magazine


Topic: Thomson

Flotsam and Jetsam

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas’s] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

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If the White House Won’t Reverse Course, Congress Will

As the Obami’s national-security policies — Mirandizing terrorists, trying KSM in New York, closing Guantanamo — fall one by one in swift succession following the wake-up election in Massachusetts and the Christmas Day bombing fiasco, one senses that there is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game going on. The Obami can’t come right out and say, “We messed up! By gosh, the Bush folks got it right.” (They can, but they can’t bring themselves to, for that would be an admission that their entire campaign was fundamentally wrong and their indictment of those who kept us safe for seven and a half years terribly misguided.) Nor can the administration proceed with untenable and hugely unpopular policies.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers are anxious to create a little distance between themselves and the cratering administration and to get away from the impression that all these harebrained ideas were theirs. The solution: Congress will be the instrument for undoing the Obami’s Not Bush anti-terror policies.

Yesterday was a case in point. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stepped forward to throw cold water on the proposed transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Illinois. Politico reported:

The second-ranking House Democrat signaled Tuesday that the White House is reconsidering a plan to move Guantanamo detainees to a prison in northwest Illinois. … “I think the administration realizes that this is a difficult issue,” Hoyer said, speaking at his weekly meeting with Capitol Hill reporters. “And I think that they are assessing where they are and where they think we ought to be, and I think that’s appropriate and I look forward to discussing it with them.”

It is not clear whether the administration is really assessing this all on their own or whether Hoyer is forcing the Obama team to do so by signaling there is no support among Democrats to facilitate the move of dangerous detainees to the “heartland,” as Liz Cheney likes to refer to the Thomson Correctional Facility. Either way, what is clear is that more responsible Democrats like Hoyer and those who appeared yesterday to block the KSM trial are not leaving this in the hands of the Obama administration. The latter has already proved itself to be both tone-deaf and lacking in common sense. The result should work out to everyone’s satisfaction: the Obami can “blame” Congress, Congress can take credit for protecting the country from the Justice Department, the Republicans can claim victory, and the public can rest assured that they will be safer and more secure.

As the Obami’s national-security policies — Mirandizing terrorists, trying KSM in New York, closing Guantanamo — fall one by one in swift succession following the wake-up election in Massachusetts and the Christmas Day bombing fiasco, one senses that there is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game going on. The Obami can’t come right out and say, “We messed up! By gosh, the Bush folks got it right.” (They can, but they can’t bring themselves to, for that would be an admission that their entire campaign was fundamentally wrong and their indictment of those who kept us safe for seven and a half years terribly misguided.) Nor can the administration proceed with untenable and hugely unpopular policies.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers are anxious to create a little distance between themselves and the cratering administration and to get away from the impression that all these harebrained ideas were theirs. The solution: Congress will be the instrument for undoing the Obami’s Not Bush anti-terror policies.

Yesterday was a case in point. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stepped forward to throw cold water on the proposed transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Illinois. Politico reported:

The second-ranking House Democrat signaled Tuesday that the White House is reconsidering a plan to move Guantanamo detainees to a prison in northwest Illinois. … “I think the administration realizes that this is a difficult issue,” Hoyer said, speaking at his weekly meeting with Capitol Hill reporters. “And I think that they are assessing where they are and where they think we ought to be, and I think that’s appropriate and I look forward to discussing it with them.”

It is not clear whether the administration is really assessing this all on their own or whether Hoyer is forcing the Obama team to do so by signaling there is no support among Democrats to facilitate the move of dangerous detainees to the “heartland,” as Liz Cheney likes to refer to the Thomson Correctional Facility. Either way, what is clear is that more responsible Democrats like Hoyer and those who appeared yesterday to block the KSM trial are not leaving this in the hands of the Obama administration. The latter has already proved itself to be both tone-deaf and lacking in common sense. The result should work out to everyone’s satisfaction: the Obami can “blame” Congress, Congress can take credit for protecting the country from the Justice Department, the Republicans can claim victory, and the public can rest assured that they will be safer and more secure.

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Will They Give up on Closing Guantanamo?

The rationale for closing Guantanamo was always thin. It was, the Obami said, a “recruiting tool” — although terrorists hardly needed yet another reason to slaughter us. They have so many after all and didn’t need Guantanamo to recruit terrorists throughout the 1990s and for 9/11. It had a “bad reputation” — although much of that was based on misinformation, and the Obama team concedes it is a professionally run, humane, and secure facility. Now comes word that the detainees don’t want to leave. After all, even leftist advocacy groups realize the change of venue doesn’t mean much. (A Human Rights Watch rep tells Newsweek “Moving more than 100 detainees — the vast majority of whom would end up being held without charge — to a U.S. facility that is already being dubbed ‘Gitmo North’ will blunt the positive message Obama hoped to send by shutting Guantanamo in the first place.”)

It doesn’t really make any sense if we want to “improve our image” when the detainees and their lawyers now contend that a SuperMax facility is worse than the current rather comfy environs:

[T]he final irony is that many of the detainees may not even want to be transferred to Thomson and could conceivably even raise their own legal roadblocks to allow them to stay at Gitmo. [Detainee lawyer Marc] Falkoff notes that many of his clients, while they clearly want to go home, are at least being held under Geneva Convention conditions in Guantánamo. At Thomson, he notes, the plans call for them to be thrown into the equivalent of a “supermax” security prison under near-lockdown conditions.

“As far as our clients are concerned, it’s probably preferable for them to remain at Guantánamo,” he says.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Obamis insisted on closing Guantanamo as part of their fixation from the campaign — now embedded in Obama’s governance — with being “not Bush.” As one after another of their rationales collapses, as it has become untenable even to send the large number of detainees from Yemen back home, and as the public grows increasingly wary of shuffling the detainees to the heartland of America, one wonders just how long the Obama team will keep at this.

At some point the invocation of his still-unfulfilled promise to close Guantanamo simply reinforces the image of Obama as an out-of-touch and ineffectual commander in chief in the war against Islamic fundamentalists. Sometimes it’s best to admit that there is a vast difference between campaigning and governing. After all, they dumped the promise to allow C-SPAN to televise health-care negotiations, so why not give up the much dumber idea of closing Guantanamo?

The rationale for closing Guantanamo was always thin. It was, the Obami said, a “recruiting tool” — although terrorists hardly needed yet another reason to slaughter us. They have so many after all and didn’t need Guantanamo to recruit terrorists throughout the 1990s and for 9/11. It had a “bad reputation” — although much of that was based on misinformation, and the Obama team concedes it is a professionally run, humane, and secure facility. Now comes word that the detainees don’t want to leave. After all, even leftist advocacy groups realize the change of venue doesn’t mean much. (A Human Rights Watch rep tells Newsweek “Moving more than 100 detainees — the vast majority of whom would end up being held without charge — to a U.S. facility that is already being dubbed ‘Gitmo North’ will blunt the positive message Obama hoped to send by shutting Guantanamo in the first place.”)

It doesn’t really make any sense if we want to “improve our image” when the detainees and their lawyers now contend that a SuperMax facility is worse than the current rather comfy environs:

[T]he final irony is that many of the detainees may not even want to be transferred to Thomson and could conceivably even raise their own legal roadblocks to allow them to stay at Gitmo. [Detainee lawyer Marc] Falkoff notes that many of his clients, while they clearly want to go home, are at least being held under Geneva Convention conditions in Guantánamo. At Thomson, he notes, the plans call for them to be thrown into the equivalent of a “supermax” security prison under near-lockdown conditions.

“As far as our clients are concerned, it’s probably preferable for them to remain at Guantánamo,” he says.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Obamis insisted on closing Guantanamo as part of their fixation from the campaign — now embedded in Obama’s governance — with being “not Bush.” As one after another of their rationales collapses, as it has become untenable even to send the large number of detainees from Yemen back home, and as the public grows increasingly wary of shuffling the detainees to the heartland of America, one wonders just how long the Obama team will keep at this.

At some point the invocation of his still-unfulfilled promise to close Guantanamo simply reinforces the image of Obama as an out-of-touch and ineffectual commander in chief in the war against Islamic fundamentalists. Sometimes it’s best to admit that there is a vast difference between campaigning and governing. After all, they dumped the promise to allow C-SPAN to televise health-care negotiations, so why not give up the much dumber idea of closing Guantanamo?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

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Not Keeping America Safe

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

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Detainees Coming to Illinois

Apparently, the Obami have not turned a new leaf after all. No, they’re still playing to the netroot crowd and treating the war on terror as if it were about something other than the security of Americans and the defeat of murderous foes. As leaked documents over the weekend indicated, the administration wants to acquire and upgrade the Thomson Correctional Center, located 150 miles northwest of Chicago, and transfer Guantanamo detainees there. They’ll have to spend hundreds of millions to duplicate the secure facility and accommodations already in place in Guantanamo. And — this is key — Congress will have to vote to allow detainees to be housed there. Republicans, especially Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for the Senate, is raising the red flag, saying it’s an unnecessary risk.

But, as others have pointed out, the Democrats’ delight over the spending spree needed to upgrade the facility is oddly misplaced:

This exorbitant “injection” of funds would be necessary because TCC is not ready to accommodate international jihadists, who are prone to riot, savagely attack their custodians, attempt escape, and plot terror attacks while in U.S. prisons. The jail would have to be hardened before it could become the new Gitmo. So even if financial considerations were the first-order priority here — and they should not be — the administration’s plan would be inexcusably wasteful. Gitmo has already been hardened, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is now a state-of-the-art, Geneva Conventions-compliant detention center. It makes no sense to sink those expenditures down a black hole, spending another fortune on a project that won’t generate sustainable growth. Illinois found that out when it built TCC in the first place.

And we risk more than that. Federal court judges will gain jurisdiction over the detainees and will be empowered to release them and/or entertain their claims to enjoy the full array of privileges enjoyed by ordinary prisoners. When you add in the risk that detainees will commit acts of violence, spread jihadist propaganda, and create targets for other terrorists, one has to wonder, once again, why?

The answer, or a partial answer, comes from a noxious speech on human rights given yesterday by Hillary Clinton. In the eyes of the Obami, you see, we’re human-rights violators and miscreants and must atone for our sins by putting our own citizens at risk and tying our hands in extracting information that might in the future save lives. In detailing the four elements of the Obami’s human-rights approach, No. 1 on the list was this:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves. On his second full day in office, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the use of torture or official cruelty by any U.S. official and ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay. …

We know that all governments and all leaders sometimes fall short. So there have to be internal mechanisms of accountability when rights are violated. Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism. And here too, we should lead by example. In the last six decades we have done this – imperfectly at times but with significant outcomes – from making amends for the internment of our own Japanese American citizens in World War II, to establishing legal recourse for victims of discrimination in the Jim Crow South, to passing hate crimes legislation to include attacks against gays and lesbians. When injustice anywhere is ignored, justice everywhere is denied. Acknowledging and remedying mistakes does not make us weaker, it reaffirms the strength of our principles and institutions.

We’re now in the game of hobbling ourselves and, indeed, putting ourselves in greater peril. The Obami, in all their sanctimonious glory, will rise above the mundane concerns for safety and security and throw overboard our own judicial history and precedents. This is nothing more than an exercise in moral preening. We’ll impress our European friends and the academic Left. For the enemy is us. And the Obami are on the case.

Congress need not buy into this insanity. It has the power of the purse and should put an end to the Obama team’s misguided and dangerous gambits. If not, there are elections next year, and the voters can make their voices heard.

Apparently, the Obami have not turned a new leaf after all. No, they’re still playing to the netroot crowd and treating the war on terror as if it were about something other than the security of Americans and the defeat of murderous foes. As leaked documents over the weekend indicated, the administration wants to acquire and upgrade the Thomson Correctional Center, located 150 miles northwest of Chicago, and transfer Guantanamo detainees there. They’ll have to spend hundreds of millions to duplicate the secure facility and accommodations already in place in Guantanamo. And — this is key — Congress will have to vote to allow detainees to be housed there. Republicans, especially Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for the Senate, is raising the red flag, saying it’s an unnecessary risk.

But, as others have pointed out, the Democrats’ delight over the spending spree needed to upgrade the facility is oddly misplaced:

This exorbitant “injection” of funds would be necessary because TCC is not ready to accommodate international jihadists, who are prone to riot, savagely attack their custodians, attempt escape, and plot terror attacks while in U.S. prisons. The jail would have to be hardened before it could become the new Gitmo. So even if financial considerations were the first-order priority here — and they should not be — the administration’s plan would be inexcusably wasteful. Gitmo has already been hardened, at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is now a state-of-the-art, Geneva Conventions-compliant detention center. It makes no sense to sink those expenditures down a black hole, spending another fortune on a project that won’t generate sustainable growth. Illinois found that out when it built TCC in the first place.

And we risk more than that. Federal court judges will gain jurisdiction over the detainees and will be empowered to release them and/or entertain their claims to enjoy the full array of privileges enjoyed by ordinary prisoners. When you add in the risk that detainees will commit acts of violence, spread jihadist propaganda, and create targets for other terrorists, one has to wonder, once again, why?

The answer, or a partial answer, comes from a noxious speech on human rights given yesterday by Hillary Clinton. In the eyes of the Obami, you see, we’re human-rights violators and miscreants and must atone for our sins by putting our own citizens at risk and tying our hands in extracting information that might in the future save lives. In detailing the four elements of the Obami’s human-rights approach, No. 1 on the list was this:

First, a commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to those standards, including ourselves. On his second full day in office, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the use of torture or official cruelty by any U.S. official and ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay. …

We know that all governments and all leaders sometimes fall short. So there have to be internal mechanisms of accountability when rights are violated. Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism. And here too, we should lead by example. In the last six decades we have done this – imperfectly at times but with significant outcomes – from making amends for the internment of our own Japanese American citizens in World War II, to establishing legal recourse for victims of discrimination in the Jim Crow South, to passing hate crimes legislation to include attacks against gays and lesbians. When injustice anywhere is ignored, justice everywhere is denied. Acknowledging and remedying mistakes does not make us weaker, it reaffirms the strength of our principles and institutions.

We’re now in the game of hobbling ourselves and, indeed, putting ourselves in greater peril. The Obami, in all their sanctimonious glory, will rise above the mundane concerns for safety and security and throw overboard our own judicial history and precedents. This is nothing more than an exercise in moral preening. We’ll impress our European friends and the academic Left. For the enemy is us. And the Obami are on the case.

Congress need not buy into this insanity. It has the power of the purse and should put an end to the Obama team’s misguided and dangerous gambits. If not, there are elections next year, and the voters can make their voices heard.

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So Much for Home State Favors

The Obami have a holiday surprise for the president’s home state. Lynn Sweet reports:

Barring a last minute glitch, the Obama White House has settled on an Illinois prison to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, sources close to the decision told the Chicago Sun-Times. An announcement is expected shortly from the Obama administration to start the process to acquire the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.A leaked memo prepared by administration officials prompted speculation that the decision was finalized. An administration official said that memo was a draft and not to read anything into its existence because paperwork is readied just in case.

The memo declares that Guantanamo detainees will be transferred “as expeditiously as possible” to Illinois’ s Thomson Correction Center.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn say they are delighted, suggesting it will bring more jobs to the state. I suspect this will be a top issue in next year’s Illinois senate race. After all, Senate Democrats declined to block funding for this move. We’ll see how enthusiastic the good people of Illinois are when they learn about their new residents.

But more importantly, the question one must ask on the merits of this move is why? With whom are we supposed to be garnering “credit” for moving detainees from the relatively cushy environs of Guantanamo to the isolation cells of a Supermax prison? How long before the ACLU starts demanding that the terrorists enjoy computer access, letter writing, and visits from outsiders? The security concerns, the expense, and the risk of Islamic propaganda spreading among the general prison population should, one would think, weigh heavily against this move. But the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department have other ideas and will be setting a legal precedent which will burden other administrations.

Congress can still stop this recklessness. There are votes coming up in the Senate on the omnibus spending bill and the Defense Department appropriations bill. Both might be good vehicles to test whether senators really do want to enable another inexplicable move by the Obama administration, which seems insistent on returning to a judicial model for terrorism.

The Obami have a holiday surprise for the president’s home state. Lynn Sweet reports:

Barring a last minute glitch, the Obama White House has settled on an Illinois prison to house detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, sources close to the decision told the Chicago Sun-Times. An announcement is expected shortly from the Obama administration to start the process to acquire the nearly vacant Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois.A leaked memo prepared by administration officials prompted speculation that the decision was finalized. An administration official said that memo was a draft and not to read anything into its existence because paperwork is readied just in case.

The memo declares that Guantanamo detainees will be transferred “as expeditiously as possible” to Illinois’ s Thomson Correction Center.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn say they are delighted, suggesting it will bring more jobs to the state. I suspect this will be a top issue in next year’s Illinois senate race. After all, Senate Democrats declined to block funding for this move. We’ll see how enthusiastic the good people of Illinois are when they learn about their new residents.

But more importantly, the question one must ask on the merits of this move is why? With whom are we supposed to be garnering “credit” for moving detainees from the relatively cushy environs of Guantanamo to the isolation cells of a Supermax prison? How long before the ACLU starts demanding that the terrorists enjoy computer access, letter writing, and visits from outsiders? The security concerns, the expense, and the risk of Islamic propaganda spreading among the general prison population should, one would think, weigh heavily against this move. But the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department have other ideas and will be setting a legal precedent which will burden other administrations.

Congress can still stop this recklessness. There are votes coming up in the Senate on the omnibus spending bill and the Defense Department appropriations bill. Both might be good vehicles to test whether senators really do want to enable another inexplicable move by the Obama administration, which seems insistent on returning to a judicial model for terrorism.

Read Less




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