Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obama's Guantánamo policy in spotlight as detainee's trial begins.

As Obama attempts to close Guantanamo Bay, he reminds us that the Bush administration only prosecuted three people from the hundreds that they held on that Cuban island.

So, it's impressive that Obama has decided to prosecute Ahmed Ghailani in a New York court, especially since he has only been in office for a couple of months.

But one gets the feeling that this case will be scrutinised by a Republican party who are playing the incredibly stupid, but perhaps highly effective card, that it is dangerous for ordinary Americans to have terrorists held on US soil.

Ghailani, known as "Foopie", was one of 14 so-called "high-value detainees" brought to Guantánamo Bay in 2006, having been held for two years in secret prisons run by the CIA abroad.

He is accused of having helped to transport TNT explosives and oxygen tanks used in the al-Qaida bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 7 August 1988. The attacks killed more than 200 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded thousands. The Clinton administration responded two weeks later with missile attacks on al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

According to prosecutors, Ghailani, then in his 20s, fled Africa shortly before the bombings and joined the al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan, becoming Osama bin Laden's bodyguard. He was captured by the CIA in Pakistan in 2004.

The notion that holding terrorists on the US mainland exposes American citizens to increased danger is simply fanciful, as the US already holds terrorists in it's high security prisons.
Thirty-three international terrorists, many with ties to al-Qaeda, reside in a single federal prison in Florence, Colo., with little public notice.

Detained in the supermax facility in Colorado are Ramzi Yousef, who headed the group that carried out the first bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993; Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of conspiring in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; Ahmed Ressam, of the Dec. 31, 1999, Los Angeles airport millennium attack plots; Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, conspirator in several plots, including one to assassinate President George W. Bush; and Wadih el-Hage, convicted of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya.

Inmates in Florence and those at the maximum-security disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., rarely see other prisoners.
So, it is against this hysterical opposition that Obama seeks to prove that these suspects can be dealt with through the federal courts.

Which leads one to believe that Obama must think he has a high rate of success by prosecuting Ghailani in this way.

The biggest problem as far as I can see will be whether or not Ghailani was ever tortured.
A crucial part of Ghailani's defence is likely to be his claim that he was subjected to cruel interrogation methods and deprived of a lawyer while being held in CIA secret prisons.
This is what is wrong with the entire Republican approach to the war on terror and federal courts. They appear to have removed the notion that a suspect could be innocent completely from their agenda.

Should Ghailani be set free, they will say that this proves that suspects from Guantanamo cannot be tried in federal courts. Nothing other than a guilty verdict will satisfy them and, even if they get that verdict, they will fear holding Ghailani on American soil.

So, this case will come under ridiculous scrutiny. Obama, I am sure, will have picked his strongest case first, because politically he simply can't afford to lose this one. The hysterical Republican cry babies would make too much of this were Obama to ever lose this case.


Keith Olbermann on the Republican hysteria machine which is cranking up.


Talking of Republican hysteria on this issue, here comes their King, Bill O'Reilly, making the case - with the help of Karl Rove - that "do-gooders and the ACLU and others" prevented military tribunals from taking place and that the Obama administration's plan represents a "dangerous mindset".

Notice how the notion of a fair trial is utterly obnoxious to O'Reilly who actually abhors how much it might cost and how long it might take.

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