The Blog

Gitmo Transparency?

10:54 AM, Sep 7, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Over the past few days, the press has reported that Belgium has agreed to take in one Guantanamo detainee. Which detainee? We don't know. The press hasn't found anyone willing to say. (See, for example: here, here, here, and here.)

The Belgian government isn't saying. According to a statement by the Belgian Foreign Ministry:

"Following a court verdict reached in the United States, the individual in question is no longer facing prosecution and will be issued a visa granting him access to Belgian territory and resident status entitling him to a work permit. Before his arrival in Belgium, further accompanying measures will be specified with a view to ensuring his effective integration in Belgium."

The Obama administration won't say either.

This is not surprising. As I noted in June and again in August, there have been a series of transfers in the works, but neither the host governments involved, nor the Obama administration would identify the detainees being transferred. The problem is that oftentimes detainees cleared for transfers have worrisome backgrounds. Ahmed Zuhair, who was transferred to Saudi Arabia in June, is a case in point. Zuhair was almost certainly an accomplice in the murder of an American diplomat, and had been convicted by a Bosnian court on terrorism-related charges before ever being detained by the U.S., but he was transferred anyhow. The Obama administration reported the transfer after the fact in an off-news-cycle Friday evening press release.

The Belgian statement mentions a "court verdict" that apparently vindicates the detainee in question. But is that really the case? The "court verdict" is, in reality, one of the habeas decisions handed down by the D.C. Circuit Court. Those decisions are hardly bedrock. To take just one example: The Parhat decision, which determined that the Uighurs held at Gitmo should be released, did not even mention the name Abdul Haq. The Uighurs at Gitmo have admitted they were trained by Haq, who was designated a high-level al Qaeda terrorist by the Obama administration. Yet, the Parhat decision did not even begin to explore Haq's career or his ties to al Qaeda and the Uighur detainees.

For all of the media's reporting on Gitmo, you would think that journalists would have more curiosity about all of this. Transfer and release decisions made during the Bush administration warranted more scrutiny than they received. The same is true for decisions made by the Obama administration. This was supposed to be the most transparent administration in history, yet it does not even name the detainees it transfers from Gitmo until after the fact.

Why the secrecy?