he U.S. prison for enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should not succumb once again to policies that thwart our defense of U.S. citizens and national security interests.
While Gitmo houses 164 inmates who are eager to harm Americans, a group of left-leaning lawyers (colloquially dubbed the “terrorist bar”) is working earnestly on behalf of the Gitmo detainees. These groups include representatives of the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First.
Under a recent policy change, the Department of Defense allows observers from these organizations to monitor ongoing proceedings at Gitmo. The department’s policy confers privileged status on these five organizations, which have automatic access rights to monitor Gitmo hearings.
The privileged five “represent a narrow, extreme ideological view in terrorist-detainee issues,” according to Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, an organization dedicated to the proposition that no one is above the law. Attorneys from Judicial Watch had previously monitored the Gitmo proceedings, but now must wait in line behind at least five anti-anti-terrorism organizations known for their zealous advocacy on behalf of detainees.
Unlike these favored liberal organizations, the more conservative Judicial Watch must pass through a cumbersome selection process overseen by the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions, requiring Judicial Watch to justify its participation each time. This type of viewpoint discrimination in media access violates the First Amendment and, as one scholar has noted, gives the government “the power both to chill dissent and to marginalize less-mainstream voices in the public debate.”
By seeking to chill dissenting voices in the debate over the Obama administration’s approach to Gitmo detainees, the administration continues the tortured history of its own policies. Five years ago, as a candidate, President Obama promised to shut down Gitmo altogether. A year later, the newly inaugurated president began to confront the absence of any practical way to accomplish his campaign promise as reality intervened.
Later, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that federal courts in New York City — just minutes away from ground zero and the ashes of Sept. 11 — would stage trials of detainees at which Mr. Holder promised that “failure is not an option.” New Yorkers and most of America booed the plan off the stage, finding it unsafe and ludicrous.