Karen Greenberg quoted in a New America Foundation blog about how, seven years into his presidency, President Barack Obama has no more than one year to fulfill his promise of reviewing 240 cases of detainees at Guantanamo, to consolidate all files related to each case, and render an outcome: transfer, prosecution, or continued detention.
Dr. Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University, believes the hesitancy towards closing Guantanamo Bay began with its very foundation. According to her, Guantanamo Bay’s first 18 months established expectations that formed the basis of what the detention facility is today. These decisions, she said, “[have]haunted this country and the process for a very long time.” First, there was a belief that “preventative detention” of potential or low level militants would “take people off the battlefield” before they could become dangerous. Second, especially during the hunt for Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden, it was widely believed that the informational value of the detainees was high. Guantanamo Bay, Greenberg said, became an intelligence mission. Third, military commissions at Guantanamo quickly became the norm for trying detainees, instead of moving commissions to U.S. soil or through the federal court system.
The commissions have been largely ineffective, leading Greenberg to wonder, “At what point do you say these commissions don’t work? What point do you say, ‘These commissions need to be had in Virginia or D.C. or someplace where now we have the expertise and the structure to try these individuals’?”
Greenberg believes that the “transformative moment” for Guantanamo Bay was the arrival of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in 2006. KSM is believed to be the man who organized the 9/11 attacks. When KSM and other high value detainees arrived at Guantanamo Bay, their presence reinforced the American public’s fears about those detained. The myth grew in the minds of the public. “All of the sudden,” she recalled, “Guantanamo became a place where the worst of the worst actually were.” Here was a detainee who could not be released because he was a threat, who had a great deal of intelligence about how al-Qaeda operated, and who would be prosecuted through a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, following much public outcry over bringing him to courts in Manhattan.
Read the entire New America Foundation blog.