22 January 2009

Okay. Now what?

So one administration spends $1 billion to set up Gitmo, and the next administration closes it down. It's a major policy statement. Closing down the "Black Sites" is an even more profound policy statement, because Gitmo was always the visible component of that otherwise secret network.
We need more than a statement. Closing the foreign prison network and moving suspects to prisons inside our own country doesn't magically mean that we're transitioning to a more transparent and effective protocol. Our legal system just isn't designed to deal with terrorists and illegal combatants, and it shows. Our response has been slow, piecemeal, and inflexible. We've been trying to fit these guys in one of the two slots that we have available in our legal system — criminal or POW. But they are neither.
Couldn't the same thing be accomplished by retaining the network for foreign nationals, but:
1. Allow the UN, Red Cross & other NGOs, and journalists reasonable access, and
2. Legislate that "extra-territorial is not extra-jurisdictional" with regard to these sites, and
3. Assemble a multidisciplinary panel to create a workable judicial protocol to deal with illegal combatants and terrorists, and
4. Hold state agents responsible for a failure of diligence or violations of the law.
Wasn't the lack of oversight, transparency, accountability, and due process the problem? Isn't the failure of the Bush administration that they had eight years to sort this out, but were either unwilling or incapable? 
I don't think the problem was location, location, location, or location. 
Closing the network ignores the fact that we can and do actually work cooperatively with other nations, it ignores the fact that some of our allies don't have secure facilities, and it presumes that the US is the unambiguous focus of the suspect's act — which isn't always clear. 
We have held men who were not dangerous. We have released men who were.
Simply shuttering the prison network isn't a fix for the multifaceted problem. And those problems aren't going away because we closed the prison network.

1 chimed in:

cliff1976 said...

2. Legislate that "extra-territorial is not extra-jurisdictional" with regard to these sites

That, for me, is the crux. Unless (or perhaps even though) it's under the auspices of some multinational organization, extra-territorial jurisdiction is likely to stoke the fires we want to put out.