In­ter­ro­ga­tion at sea skirts Obama pledge against Gitmo

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which re­fuses to send terrorism sus­pects to the de­ten­tion cen­ter at U.S. Naval Base Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, on July 6 de­fended its de­ci­sion to in­ter­ro­gate a de­tainee for two months aboard a U.S. Navy ship, out­side the reach of Amer­i­can law.

“He was de­tained law­fully, un­der the law of war, aboard a Navy ship un­til his trans­fer to the U.S. for pros­e­cu­tion,” pres­i­den­tial spokesman Jay Car­ney said.

But a lead­ing critic of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of de­tainees, Sen. Lind­sey Graham, South Carolina Repub­li­can, said the episode demon­strates the prob­lems with Mr. Obama’s aver­sion to hold­ing sus­pects at the cen­ter in Cuba.

“They are so afraid to use Gitmo that they are ba­si­cally mak­ing de­ci­sions around not hav­ing to use Gitmo, rather than what’s best for the coun­try,” Mr. Graham told ed­i­tors and re­porters at The Wash­ing­ton Times. “What’s best for the nation is to treat these for­eign fight­ers as en­emy com­bat­ants.”

The mil­i­tary cap­tured Ahmed Ab­dulka­dir Warsame, 25, a So­mali na­tional said to have close as­so­ci­a­tions with al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, on April 19. He was put aboard a Navy ship in the Per­sian Gulf re­gion and in­ter­ro­gated at sea by in­tel- ligence of­fi­cials.

Un­der in­ter­ro­ga­tion, Mr. Warsame pro­vided what of­fi­cials called im­por­tant in­tel­li­gence about al Qaeda in Ye­men and its re­la­tion­ship with al-Shabab mil­i­tants in So­ma­lia. Mr. Car­ney de­scribed him as a mem­ber of al-Shabab and said the in­ter­ro­ga­tion yielded “very valu­able in­tel­li­gence.”

“Wher­ever pos­si­ble, our first pri­or­ity is and al­ways has been to ap­pre­hend terrorism sus­pects and to pre­serve the op­por­tu­nity to elicit the valu­able in­tel­li­gence that can help us pro­tect the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Mr. Car­ney said. He added that the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross was al­lowed to visit the Navy ves­sel “and had an op­por- tu­nity to in­ter­view the de­tainee aboard the ship.”

Mr. Obama cam­paigned in 2008 on a prom­ise to close the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity at Guan­tanamo Bay. He was highly crit­i­cal of the prison and of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s per­mis­sion to use “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques on a few high-pro­file al Qaeda de­tainees.

Two days af­ter tak­ing of­fice, Mr. Obama signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der di­rect­ing the mil­i­tary to close Guan­tanamo Bay by Jan­uary 2010. The pres­i­dent also closed CIA-op­er­ated “black sites” where de­tainees were in­ter­ro­gated over­seas.

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion missed the dead­line for Guan­tanamo even as Mr. Obama con- tin­ued to in­sist he would close the fa­cil­ity. In Jan­uary 2010, a Jus­tice Depart­ment task force rec­om­mended that about 50 of the 196 de­tainees at Guan­tanamo Bay be held in­def­i­nitely with­out trial un­der the laws of war.

In March, the pres­i­dent re­versed his cam­paign pledge and signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to hold at least 48 prisoners in­def­i­nitely at Guan­tanamo. The or­der also re­sumed mil­i­tary tri­als for Guan­tanamo de­tainees.

Congress has pro­hib­ited pros­e­cu­tion of these de­tainees in U.S. fed­eral courts. But Mr. Warsame was brought to New York on July 4, where he faces pros­e­cu­tion in a civil­ian court and is be­ing held in a civil­ian de­ten­tion cen­ter.

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