One of the most pressing issues in the power transfer from President George W. Bush to President Barack Obama is the issue of how to deal with war on terror prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay. Over the past months, optimism concerning the closing of the military base has spurred spectators to emerge with a variety of solutions for how to legally prosecute and/or remove prisoners from detention camp. As the editorial board of the The Miami Student sees the current situation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed legislation – which hopes to completely close Gitmo as a detention center within a year -offers the most attractive and open plan for deconstructing what has been a taint on America’s foreign policy record.
Other leading ideas, such as keeping Gitmo open while completely revitalizing the process, or using European Union (EU) member states to burden-share with U.S. authorities and move prisoners to Europe, fall short for a couple reasons. First, Gitmo must cease being a place for detention. Even if every executive order and Defense Department policy memo were revised and reworked to prevent any possible instance of torture, world opinion-and U.S. popular sentiment-would never support its future use without overbearing scrutiny and unquestioning paranoia. Sharing prisoners with the EU could conceivably work-spokespersons from France and Portugal have already expressed willingness to have detainees re-located to their countries in order to help the United States politically-however this solution does not address concerns about accountability over those within the camp, and may produce an “out of sight, out of mind” effect within the U.S. population where we simply forget that there are those in prisons somewhere around the world.
Feinstein’s bill, however, offers the option for and transferring detainees from jurisdiction under military tribunals to U.S. federal courts. This is the best possible course because it opens up the possibility of a publicly disclosed process under American review. As the new head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein’s knowledge of the topic and sway within the Senate gives this bill the support it needs if it reaches Obama’s desk-that is, if he hasn’t decided what to do with the base already.
In the very least, what we do know is that most of these prisoners cannot be released back to their home countries. Either they face the danger of prosecution and execution (e.g., the Uigher prisoners that are held, who are enemies of the state in their native China), or there is the possibility that detainees would not be prosecuted at all. Even without a plan set in stone, the closing of Gitmo is the first step toward reversing the Bush administration’s flawed policies in executing the war on terror.