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Obama's Gitmo Diplomacy Trumps National Security?

3:58 PM, Apr 24, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Both the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times are reporting that the Obama administration may be preparing to release as many as seven Uighur Gitmo detainees into the U.S. The LA Times reports that the release plan is being considered despite the objections of the Department of Homeland Security. Why?

It turns out other nations are not so keen on taking Gitmo detainees and the Obama administration sees the Uighur detainees as a bargaining chip. The proposed quid pro quo works like this: The U.S. takes in some Uighur detainees and other nations see this as a sign of good faith, so they agree to take in other detainees. An anonymous official explained it to the LA Times this way:

"It is kind of hard to tell other countries you would like them to accept some of these guys from Guantanamo if you are not willing to accept them."

So, in the name of Gitmo diplomacy, the Obama administration may now free detainees in the U.S. that the DHS thinks are potentially dangerous. Such are the perils of trying to appease world opinion without understanding the potential ramifications for America's security.

During his first week in office, President Obama ordered Gitmo closed by January 2010. This put the U.S. on the clock to find a home for detainees the Obama administration does not want to try or otherwise detain. But, the president signed this order before he or his advisers even had a good understanding of who was being held at Gitmo. Thus, President Obama ordered the creation of an inter-agency review board to review the detainees' cases.

This review board reportedly found that at least some of the Uighurs are dangerous, but the Obama administration may be preparing to ignore its conclusion. The prudent course would have been for the board to complete its work on all of the detainees before putting an expiration date on Gitmo, and for the Obama administration to actually listen to its concerns about detainees it has investigated. But, in the name of currying world favor, Obama wanted to order Gitmo's closure quickly, and he may now be willing to ignore his own board's concerns to see that through.

Inadvertently, President Obama has exposed the hypocrisy in world opinion, particularly European opinion, which he was trying to appease. The Obama administration thought that the world would applaud his plan to close Gitmo. It did, sort of. But at the same time the European nations that decried the existence of Gitmo for years, and portrayed its inmates as innocent goat herders, decided they were not going to make it easy for Obama to close the facility. They want the U.S. to take some detainees to spread around the risk -- after downplaying the risk the detainees posed for years.So, the Obama administration is now on the verge of releasing detainees the DHS is worried about into the U.S. in the name of diplomacy. And who are the seventeen Uighur detainees held at Gitmo? (For a more complete review of their cases, see here, here, and here.) In short:

(1) They are all members or at least associates of a jihadist organization called the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party ("ETIP"), which was previously known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement ("ETIM"). Some like to pretend that all Uighur groups are merely "separatists" fighting a despicable Chinese regime that oppresses the Uighur people in Western China. But, not all Uighur fighting groups were created equal. The ETIP/ETIM is a designated terrorist organization for good reasons. It has known ties to both al Qaeda and the Taliban. Its goal is the establishment of a radical Islamist state throughout South and Central Asia. And its violence is not aimed at China alone. The ETIP/ETIM has fought alongside al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The State Department reports that two members of the group were involved in a plot against the American embassy in Kyrgyzstan in 2002.