The White House’s decision to stop the transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees back to their home base in Yemen jeopardizes President Obama’s executive order – and campaign promise – to close the controversial prison facility.
The decision also brings into question Attorney General Eric Holder’s multiple affirmations that “rehabilitation” of already-repatriated ex-detainees has been “successful.”
But the White House and Holder are already playing a game of political rigmarole they hope will reconcile their hypocrisy on the canceled transfers.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday that delaying transfer of Gitmo prisoners would not delay the closing of Guantanamo Bay. It was not clear what would happen to them in lieu of being transferred. One option could be to ship more of them to the Thomson Correctional Facility in Illinois, where other Gitmo prisoners will be housed.
But that facility won’t be ready until 2011, and putting any prisoners into a facility inside the United States has been met with controversy. There is also the legal issue of whether it’s appropriate to ship homeward-bound Gitmo detainees to another prison, given that original plans to ship them back to their countries of origin presumed they were safe.
Instead, Holder has repeatedly called the programs “effective,” allowing him to justify the transfer of Gitmo detainees back to their hometowns. Stopping the transfers, as he did Tuesday, represents a conflict for the Attorney General.
Holder addressed those concerns in a statement Tuesday.
The Administration’s decision to halt transfers seemed to indicate a responsiveness to Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions led the call to stop transfers after a Christmas Day terrorist attack in Detroit was conducted by a Yemeni al-Quaeda operative.
“The list of failed participants in the Saudi [terrorist rehabilitation] program reads like a "who's who" of al Qaeda terrorists on the Arabian Peninsula,” said Sessions.