President Barack Obama has refused to send any suspected terrorists captured overseas to the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But if the U.S. starts seizing more militants in expanded military operations, where will they go, who will hold them and where will they be tried?
Those are questions that worry legal experts, lawmakers and others as U.S. special operations forces deploy in larger numbers to Iraq, Syria and, maybe soon, Libya, with the Islamic State group and affiliated organizations in their sights.
Throughout Obama’s presidency, suspects have been killed in drone strikes or raids, or captured and interrogated, sometimes aboard Navy ships. After that, they are either prosecuted in U.S. courts and military commissions or handed over to other nations. This policy has been enough, experts say — at least for now.
“If you’re going to be doing counterterrorism operations that bring in detainees, you have to think through what you are going to do with them,” said Phillip Carter, former deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee policy. “If the U.S. is going to conduct large-scale combat operations or large-scale special ops and bring in more detainees, it needs a different solution.”
Rebecca Ingber, an associate law professor at Boston University who follows the issue, warns that if the U.S. engaged in a full ground war in Syria, “chances are there would need to be detention facilities of some kind in the vicinity.”
Obama has not sent a single suspected terrorist to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where many have been detained for years without being charged or tried — something the president says is a “recruitment tool” for militant extremists.
He is to report to Congress this month on how he wants to close Guantanamo and possibly transfer some of the remaining detainees to the United States. That report also is supposed to address the question of future detainees.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., believes that the absence of a long-term detention and interrogation facility for foreign terrorist suspects represents a “major shortcoming in U.S. national security policy.”
Republican candidates who want to succeed Obama are telling voters that they would keep Guantanamo open.
“Law enforcement is about gathering evidence to take someone to trial, and convict them,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “Anti-terrorism is about finding out information to prevent a future attack so the same tactics do not apply. … But, here’s the bigger problem with all this: We’re not interrogating anybody right now.”
That’s not true, said Frazier Thompson, director of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. The tight-lipped team of interrogators from the FBI, Defense Department, the CIA and other intelligence agencies gleans intelligence from top suspected terrorists in the U.S. and overseas.
Read More- AP
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