How Trump Can Stop Obama from Closing Gitmo
Donald Trump can stop Barack Obama from continuing to free terrorists, and the sooner he acts, the better.
Barack Obama is a lame-duck president and, empowered by his pen and a phone (the only weapons he has ever held, no doubt) is determined to continue to carve out a dubious legacy for himself. He had promised to close Guantanamo prison during his first presidential campaign and on the second day in office he issued one of his numerous executive orders to come, this one directing that the prison be closed within one year.
Terrorists were big supporters of Barack Obama. At Gitmo they were chanting “Obama! Obama! Obama!” during election night and when he won started chanting to their guards and prosecutors the refrain “Hey, hey…goodbye”
President Obama was stymied in his efforts to transfer many of them to American prisons when Republicans led an effort (joined by many Democrats) to pass a law that forbade prisoners from being moved into American prisons. But Barack Obama has found another way to release these terrorists (or “detainees” as liberals call them) by working to depict them as less of a threat than they are and then releasing them into the custody of foreign governments.
As Stephen Hayes has written in a Weekly Standard column, “Lying About Gitmo,” Obama and his team have been lying about the backgrounds and records of these terrorists to downgrade their threats to Americans and others around the world:
Let's begin with the conclusion: Barack Obama is releasing dangerous terrorists against the recommendations of military and intelligence professionals, he's doing so at a time when the threat level from radical Islamists is elevated, and he is lying about it. He is lying about how many jihadists he has released and lying about their backgrounds, all part of his effort to empty the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.
Hayes assembles quite the collection of examples of anti-American jihadists that Obama has given a get out of jail card. Included among them are the so-called Taliban Five, terror masterminds released in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. All five had worked for Al Qaeda before 9/11.
Obama has also downplayed the threats from released Guantánamo prisoners in other ways. He describes the detainees as "embittered," as if the hatred that inspires them grows from their time in Guantánamo rather than their devotion to a murderous cause. Instead of rejoining the war, the recidivists are merely "trying to link up with their old organizations." Perhaps most bizarre is his description of the process he's using to determine which detainees can be transferred or set free. "The judgment that we're continually making is: Are there individuals who are significantly more dangerous than the people who are already out there who are fighting? What do they add? Do they have special skills? Do they have special knowledge that ends up making a significant threat to the United States?"
Those are the criteria? Detainees can be released if the White House determines that they are no more dangerous than, say, the leaders of ISIS, AQAP, Boko Haram, Jabhat al Nusra, the Haqqani network, the Khorasan group? If this is actually the way the administration evaluates potential releases, it would explain why so many veteran jihadists have been freed. It's a process that prioritizes emptying the facility over the security of the country.
Obama has been dishonest about his policy and has downplayed threats from Islamic terrorism from the first day of his presidency to the (thankfully) last days to come. Pentagon and other national security experts have decried this minimizing of threats to America. His actions have been condemned by Congressman such as Edward Royce, the Republican head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who accused the White House of “doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk” and “recklessness.”
Climate change is a greater threat in Obama’s mind.
Barack Obama seems laser-focused on closing Gitmo as part of his legacy. This would cause irreparable harm to the security of America: released terrorists have a very high recidivism rate (killing is what they live for, and released “detainees” have been implicated in subsequent attacks on Americans) and Gitmo has a very unique legal status that makes it absolutely crucial in our battle against terrorism. If Obama succeeds in closing Gitmo and, perhaps, turning it over to the Castro brothers (who no doubt will be glad to have more prison space for their political prisoners), it will never again be an American asset in our fight against Islamic terrorism.
Obama has justified his actions by being able to claim formally that these terrorists are not being freed; instead he has been transferring them to other nations who supposedly will monitor them to prevent their return to terrorism. In practice, this monitoring has been a farce as the various nations, some but not all of them of them Muslim nations, have looked the other way as the terrorists “go back to work.” Detainees have vanished; they have gone off the radar screen and found their ways back to join their fellow terrorists.
What can be done in the next two months to stop Obama?
Donald Trump has vowed to keep the prison open, and to “load it up with some bad dudes.” But he can’t keep his promise if Obama empties the prison and fulfills his promise to close Gitmo.
President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican Congress can put foreign nations on notice that change is coming to Washington and America in January and that nations that cooperate with Barack Obama in his terrorist release program will be scrutinized in the years to come when it comes to foreign aid, trade pacts, security cooperation and a range of other measures. Some of the nations that have taken the terrorists are oil-rich Middle Eastern nations, but others are less wealthy South American nations. Would Uruguay be willing to take any more terrorists if faced with warnings from the incoming administration that moves to take them will be “looked at with disfavor” (to be diplomatic) in the years to come? Even Arab nations, who certainly have no reason to seek to please Barack Obama, might be reluctant to displease a President Trump who they will have to engage with the next four years.
President-elect Donald Trump has a chance to do a great deal to help defend America even before he becomes Commander-in-Chief.