Mitch McConnell Channels Civil Libertarians on Gitmo Transfers
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears to be taking a page from civil liberties groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, using similar arguments to denounce the Obama administration’s decision to move some Guantanamo detainees to a prison in Thomson, Illinois.
Calling it “the latest in a string of seriously misguided decisions related to the closing of the secure facility at Guantanamo Bay,” McConnell said in a statement that holding the same prisoners on U.S. soil takes the wind out of the sails of the administration’s earlier argument that the prison at Guantanamo is a powerful recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.
The explanation we used to get for moving detainees onto American soil was that Guantanamo’s existence is a potent recruiting tool for terrorists. But even if you grant that, it’s hard to see how simply changing Guantanamo’s mailing address would eliminate the problem. Does anyone really believe Al Jazeera will ignore the fact that enemy combatants are being held on American soil? It’s naïve to think our European critics, the American Left, or Al Qaeda will be pacified by creating an internment camp in Northern Illinois; a ‘Gitmo North’ instead of ‘Gitmo South.’
Yesterday, although some more moderate civil liberties and human rights groups praised the Obama administration’s decision to move Guantanamo detainees to Illinois as an important first step to closing down the notorious prison in Cuba, some voiced concern that this would simply shift indefinite detention without trial rather than eliminate it.
As the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Executive Director Vincent Warren said in a statement yesterday:
If President Obama is simply moving detainees from one Guantánamo to another, he has done nothing to honor his pledge to close the prison camp. …
Moving the Guantánamo system onshore is not change. Whether in Thomson, IL, at Guantánamo, or elsewhere, the very idea that we would toss aside our founding constitutional principles and allow any executive the power of kings to imprison someone forever without a trial is anathema to democracy.
In the past, McConnell’s principle complaint about moving Guantanamo detainees onto U.S. soil was that they might be accorded more constitutional rights and would endanger U.S. national security. Yesterday, he repeated those arguments as well, predicting that “There will now be another terrorist target in the heartland of America” and that detainees will be able to communicate with “terrorists on the outside,” — “a danger that would undoubtedly increase with the additional legal rights detainees will enjoy once they are moved onto U.S. soil.”
In a letter sent yesterday to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, administration officials promised that terror suspects would be in a separate part of the facility run by the U.S. military, in a security situation “beyond Supermax,” and will be denied the ability to communicate with other federal prisoners.