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CIA Director: U.S. Likely to Send Osama Bin Laden to Gitmo

5:17 PM, Feb 16, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Well, it is pretty clear that more than two years after ordering Gitmo closed, the Obama administration still hasn't come up with a better solution for holding high-value detainees. How do we know? Because Obama’s CIA director, Leon Panetta, says that the U.S. would likely send Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri to Guantanamo Bay if they were to be detained by the U.S.

The AP reports:

If the U.S. captures top al-Qaida leaders Osama Bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, they would likely be sent to the Guantanamo Bay military prison, CIA Director Leon Panetta told senators Wednesday.

This suggests that, given the choice, President Barack Obama would not try the men in the U.S. court system, opting instead for the Bush administration's policy that the president has long criticized.

Actually, what it suggests is that the Obama administration has no clue what it’s doing in respect to its Gitmo policy. Its solution so far has been to avoid detaining high-level targets. Instead, the Obama administration has favored drones – because from a legal standpoint, it’s a lot easier to kill the bad guys than it is to lock them up.

Indeed, one would be hard pressed to come up with a single high-value detainee who was first held by the U.S. beginning in January 2009 or later. Of course it’s likely that some have been detained at Bagram and elsewhere in the field, but certainly nobody as big – or as high-value – as, say, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Furthermore, Panetta’s comments, though no doubt a welcome improvement to American policy (assuming his comments today actually have any bearing on American policy), contradicts Obama’s executive order from two years ago. At that time, Obama directed:

The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order. If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantanamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. 

The president signed that executive order on January 22, 2009, his first full day in office.

National security policy for the administration has been a difficult proposition. No doubt, Barack Obama’s irresponsible campaign rhetoric (when he went around for two years saying Gitmo had to be closed) has met reality – and the results have not been pretty.

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