Editorial: Closing Guantanamo - still
Ever since he ran for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama has been promising to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. It has been part of the boilerplate of his State of the Union address just about every year since, this year was no exception.
"With the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers, and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."
The fact that a number of detainees released have returned to their previous occupation - waging jihad - seems not to bother the president.
This week the Pentagon allowed a group of reporters to watch (via closed circuit in a "secure room at the Defense Department") a 19-minute unclassified segment of one such "transfer" hearing. One of those reporters, Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal, noted that under the Bush administration reporters were actually allowed to attend hearings at Guantanamo.
But that's apparently too much for this administration, which is "transparent" in name only.
Some 155 detainees remain at the prison, 75 cleared for transfer, 20 charged with or awaiting trial for war crimes and the rest now going through hearings to determine if they can be repatriated.
The reporters were allowed to observe the hearing of Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi, a Yemeni who was among the first prisoners taken to Guantanamo about 12 years ago. His "detainee profile" says he "traveled from Yemen to Afghanistan for jihad and almost certainly was a member" of al-Qaeda, possibly a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.
But now his U.S. lawyer insists Rahabi, who has taken classes in English, business and art and has acquired "a love of watercolors," wants only to return home to open "Yemen Milk and Honey Farms Limited."
Wow, from jihadi to art lover and entrepreneur, and Obama wants to close down a place that works such miracles? Or could it be that Rahabi might fall back on his previous occupation - in which case wouldn't we all be safer if he remained at Guantanamo?