Posted by Brad @ 11:54 pm on June 4th 2014

Six Years Later, Guantanamo Bay is Still Open

…but not for 5 Taliban commanders who were just released for a prisoner exchange. Just for the 149 that remain, having been there for well over a decade now, 78 of whom have been cleared for transfer or release for four years or more. The five that were released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, by the way, were not among that category.

The real kick in the nuts? In December, Congress passed a law disallowing the President from releasing prisoners from Gitmo (added to the annual defense authorization act). Obama appended a signing statement to that provision specifically, stating that in the administration’s belief the provision was an unconstitutional overstepping of the separation of powers – he specifically couched it in the context of his being frustrated at his inability to close Gitmo or transfer its detainees to civilian court. So, Congress passed the law and the administration basically said it didn’t feel that it had to follow it (which, when Bush did it, Obama called an abuse that advanced sweeping powers of executive authority, but whatevs).

However, that signing statement has never been invoked, Gitmo remains open, the prisoners in limbo, the prisoners cleared for release still sitting there (actually, in many cases, literally – strapped to chairs with feeding tubes).

He is invoking that signing statement now, to release five of the prisoners that probably actually SHOULD have been kept off the battlefield and tried.

Emily Bazelon has a very good summary of disgusting situation as it pertains to Gitmo.

I am not particularly interested in litigating the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange. In truth, I could go either way on the matter, and there’s enough weirdness on both sides – from accounts of how Bergdahl might have ended up in their custody in the first place to the flip side that this was the first successful diplomatic negotiation with the Taliban as a political entity (this was the first time the Taliban embassy in Qatar actually got something done and proved that it could lead to battlefield course changes) – that I don’t really feel comfortable weighing in. I am also not saying that Obama should use bullshit “executive authority” signing statements to essentially declare yet another law he doesn’t like null and void when it’s convenient.

But it is curious to me that for six years now we have heard Obama bemoan that he really totally WANTS to close Guantanamo Bay, you guys, but just can’t because of stupid Congress. It’s totally not his fault – damn Republicans, Guantanamo Bay is their fault again! Except, when the opportunity arises, he is perfectly comfortable ignoring those same pesky laws entirely where it advances his agenda. Which very clearly telegraphs that letting Guantanamo detainees who aren’t strategically important one way or the other be transferred, tried, or released, is not, in fact, part of the agenda.

Bonus quote from Bazelon – file this under “a perfectly succinct encapsulation of a fundamental principle that will nevertheless not be generalized to other political issues where it proves inconvenient to a partisan or ideological worldview”:

Presidents tend toward overreach. Congress isnít good at pushing back. Each president who usurps more authority for his office makes it easier for the next one to do more of the same. This will be a part of Obamaís legacy that darkens over time.

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