by Steven Perlin, Incoming Staff Writer
On January 22, 2009, just two days after being sworn into office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay Prison along with other secretive, non-existent CIA prisons in various other allied countries. All interrogation techniques of enemy combatants are now to be in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual. This will be done in an attempt to prevent torture practices at such aforementioned sites and ultimately to keep the integrity of the law of the United States before the safety of its own citizens. It seems to many people that President Obama has closed the prisons in an attempt to distinguish himself from the Bush administration. In a good attempt at trying to be morally superior (the “good guy”), Mr. Obama now deals with an interesting situation. Many Americans agree that the closing of the prison and the ending of all torture is necessary and right, but there are others who believe that the closures will only result in more problems.
The United States of America and its citizenry have been put in a tough situation. This republic is held as the basis for equal opportunity amongst all of its citizens as well as the standard democracy for the whole world. Now in an ideal world, there would be no foreign or domestic problems involving the national security of the United States of America. Unfortunately, utopia is not realistic (nor was the idea of Marx); there are always social problems that need to be dealt with. It remains no easy task to be the one that determines right from wrong, but it is imperative that the fundamental goal is to preserve the safety of its citizens.
According to the law, once detained, one must be charged with a crime within 72 hours. If not charged within the time constraints, the arrested must be released immediately. However, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 states that an “unlawful enemy combatant” can be tried by a military commission and does not put a time limit on their release. Essentially, this 2006 Act allows enemy combatants to be tried by a military judge and prosecuted by a military lawyer. In addition, the Patriot Act redefines the word “terrorism” to a much broader scale. This is where the whole controversy arises. Many times during war, civil liberties have been restricted. John Adams passed the Sedition Act of 1798 to silence his critics, FDR passed the Smith Act which made it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the government, and other presidents have signed into law various legislation that has restricted the rights of Communists during the Cold War. George Bush has gone along with this method of self-defense by supporting the Military Commissions Act and Patriot Act, stating that we were in a time of danger and needed a place to hold enemy combatants. Unfortunately for former President Bush, the people that disagree with the prison are far more numerous and much more vocal than those who support it.
The people that reject the suspension of habeas corpus feel that it is unlawful to hold a person under custody of United States law without letting them have the rights that the Constitution grants its citizens. They feel that it is inherently unequal to disallow these foreigners the rights that all American citizens hold. Moreover, they feel that the techniques used to obtain evidence are against the Geneva Convention. On the other hand, the biggest problem that conservatives, even moderates have is that the closing of Guantanamo Bay is much too lenient because many people that are indeed terrorists will be let free. For instance, Mullah Abdul Kayum Zakir, who was set free from Guantanamo Bay Prison just over a year ago, has now rejoined the ranks of the Taleban. On the other side of the coin, many liberals believe that the Guantanamo detainees release is justified for only 10% of the accused have returned to terrorist activities.
To delve deeper into the conservative view of the issue, many believe that President Obama’s actions do not show a strong support of Americanism. In short, here is what will happen when Guantanamo Bay Prison closes. The first thing that would have gradually happened is the release of many suspected terrorists back into their country of origin. Many believe that if you were sent to Guantanamo, you weren’t sent there without reason. Therefore, you must be guilty of plotting against the United States or something that could harm its citizens (such as the previously mentioned Zakir). The second gradual problem is that if deemed unfit for reentry into their country of origin due to poor human rights standards, these alleged terrorists will be released into other countries that accept them (such as Albania, France, Germany, and Portugal). This means that when they connect with their terrorist network, they will already be aware of the vulnerable targets and know the right spot to carry out an attack. However, the problem closest to the American people remains the fate of the people who are not set free. These people will be relocated to more suiting environments, some of which are very close to our homes. These suspects will be sent to a combination of Camp Pendleton, California, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Charleston, South Carolina. It is greatly feared that they could be released into society and perpetrate other crimes. It is especially scary to think how close Camp Pendleton sits to the San Onofre nuclear reactors, which if attacked, could kill millions of people in the surrounding area. In regard to the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Rudy Giuliani put it best when speaking at the Gibson Amphitheatre. He said, “You can’t get good intelligence from these people [detainees at Guantanamo] if you are nice to them.”Thus, since the terrorists disobey the rules of the Geneva Convention by not wearing uniforms, by attacking the Red Cross and journalists, and by killing innocent civilians, then why should the American government even bother treating these people under the rules?
The United States has always thrived off its balance between freedom and security; when one gives the other takes and vice versa. Regardless of political party affiliation, the American people need to understand how grave a situation the United States has now been placed. The possibility of another terrorist attack either in the United States or in Europe will be greatly heightened pending upon the release of these people. Something needs to be done to prevent hundreds of unstable people being let into this country. By not prosecuting these terrorists and by closing Guantanamo Bay, Obama has sent the message that terrorism will be tolerated. Terrorists and terrorist affiliates now have the ability to successfully carry out terrorist activities with little repercussion. No longer will these people be treated as the animals they are, but rather the people they should be.