At the center of the issue is the fact that two Guantanamo prisoners, released by the Bush administration in 2007, have been identified as responsible for planning the failed attempt to set off an explosive on Flight 253.
The Obama administration is already dealing with a number of legal entanglements that block the closing of the facility, as well as political opposition from the right. And as it turns out, nearly half of the 198 captives at Guantánamo are citizens of Yemen, 40 of whom have been scheduled for release.
With the likely outcome that, with more Yemenis returning home from Guantanamo, at least some of them will join forces with radical elements in their home country, Mr. Obama faces a difficult situation.
My opinion is that Guantanamo should be closed. It is an affront to the U.S. legal system, and creates problems — spectacularly demonstrated by the recent bombing attempt. Where we have a legal case, we put the person on trial. Where we don’t, we need to release the detainee. The Guantanamo situation is a similar to what happens when we put innocent or harmless people in jail, only to have them criminalized by their environment. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. And we do allow those people return to society.
What do we do with Guantanamo prisoners? Do we release them and suffer possible consequences of our bad decision in opening the facility in the first place? Do we add a potential 40 additional radicals to al Qaeda’s ranks in Yemen? Or do we continue to hold these people without legal grounds?