Risks and benefits

Well, that didn't take long. From this morning's Times:

The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
I don't think anyone is arguing that every single person at Guantanamo is innocent. From a different article in the Times:

Among the questions that the White House did not resolve on Thursday were these: What should be done with terrorists who cannot be tried in American courts, either because evidence against them was obtained by torture or because intelligence is too sensitive to use in court? Should some interrogation methods remain secret to keep Al Qaeda from training to resist them? How can the United States make sure prisoners transferred to other countries will not be tortured?

Members of Mr. Obama’s national security team have expressed a wide variety of views on interrogation and detention policy, and there is likely to be robust internal debate before the questions are resolved.
Unfortunately, this isn't sitting well with some members of the GOP. Apparently, "robust internal debate" sounds a lot like "release them into Grand Rapids" when translated into Republican.

But Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close the prison within a year “places hope ahead of reality — it sets an objective without a plan to get there.”

In offering a warning that was also sounded by other Republicans, Mr. Hoekstra noted that in briefings for Congress, administration officials “could not answer questions as to what they will do with any new jihadists or enemy combatants that we capture.”
Those are obviously very difficult questions. Thankfully, Obama has recourse to some excellent legal minds, and has good people advising him on these matters.

The timing of the al-Shihri piece is not great for Obama, and I wonder how long the Times has had this information. Regardless, there are bad people at Guantanamo, and it's important they are treated accordingly. But the prison itself has become symbolic of everything the Bush administration did wrong with international relations, including torture, extraordinary rendition and black ops detention facilities. Closing it is a foreign policy necessity, which is already being acknowledged.

On a related note, Hilzoy recently wrote a great post about the Pentagon's canard that 61 people have returned to the front since being released from Guantanamo. It's worth reading, and can be found here.

Update: Chris Bodenner at Sully's page has a useful bit of information.

[snip]... the following are just a handful of other convicted terrorists currently held in Florence, Colorado:

Zacarias Moussaoui, Conspirator in the September 11, 2001 attacks
Omar Abdel-Rahman, "The Blind Sheik"; involved in 1993 WTC bombing
Richard Colvin Reid, Islamic terrorist, nicknamed the "Shoe Bomber"
Wadih el-Hage, Conspirator in the 1998 US embassy bombings
Mahmud Abouhalima, Islamic Mujahideen leader, 1993 WTC bombing
Jose Padilla, Convicted of aiding terrorists
Mohammed A. Salameh, 1993 WTC bombing

I think this puts a pretty quick finish to the question of what we do with the dangerous folks at Gitmo.

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