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January 15, 2009


I believe the recidivism rate for prison is significantly higher than the no-doubt-bogus figure of 11 percent for Gitmo, so clearly we must never release anyone from any prison ever.

Whoa, there. Back up a sec. As far as releasing people, Gitmo has been total Jack Bauer Happyland. No one has gotten out, gotten a lawyer, gotten a trial or even seen the Red Cross without the completely unforced say-so of the Bush Administration while we "civil rights extremists" complained futilely from the sidelines[1]. Those lawyers and judges they did get were hand-picked appointees (who still rebelled against the process). Was there a storming of the Bastille while I napped? Did the Supreme Court order everyone released? No, no one has demanded anything of them, at best other countries (like the U.K.) politely requested their citizens back, and Bush handed them over if he felt like it and they were not considered dangerous.

So actually, any "recidivism rate" is simply evidence of the complete, utter failure of this whole sorry process, and their complete failure to identify any of the terrorists they did have. I don't know why they're not just embarrassed to acknowledge it.

Well, by giving interviews they try to undermine the general positive view of the US that any reasonable human being has. Thus they foster unrest that could lead to extremism that could lead to terrorist acts. That they use real events as basis for their subversive speech acts should be seen as an aggravating factor (perfidy) demanding harsher punishment.
Signed: Hilde Benjamin, Secretary of Justice

It matters how many of them have actually taken up arms, and how many have just exercised their rights to free speech in ways our government doesn't care for.

Actually, it doesn't matter at all. If you have a case and you can prove guilt, lock them up. If you don't have a case, you have to let them go. That's the price for rule of law.

It continues to amaze me that the Pentagon can spew this type of, and all manners of other, bullsh1t and yet the armed forces remain one of the, if not the most, respected institutions in the United States. Quite frankly, they're a bunch of fnkcing liars and the only public statements I ever believe from them without double and triple checking is when they announce the latest deaths (and even then I'm not willing to believe them when they report how the soldier died).

And this is clearly an opening shot at Obama, for which they should be smacked.

If you have a case and you can prove guilt, lock them up. If you don't have a case, you have to let them go. That's the price for rule of law.

Right. I'd like to know what super powers these detainees have that make letting them go so problematic that we should be willing to cast our principles aside before doing so. Even if there is real recidivism, tough crap. There's thousands upon thousands of people, maybe millions, who would like to do the US harm. So what if a few had previously been in custody? I don't get it. If you have a case, great. If not, tough crap. Have fun storming the castle.

"If you have a case and you can prove guilt, lock them up. If you don't have a case, you have to let them go."

I was going to write the same thing until I saw novakant's comment.

Also, hasn't the Bush Administration broken some kind of simple trust with the American public by not telling us who is in Guantanamo -- and for what?

Oh, come on.

If you don't love the United States enough to let it falsely imprison you and torture you for years without recourse and you dare to criticize it for doing so, you're supporting the jihadis.

If you don't love the United States enough to let it falsely imprison you and torture you for years without recourse and you dare to criticize it for doing so, you're supporting the jihadis.

Given the treatment they've received, that the recividism rate (even if accurately measured, i.e. not counting the writing of op-ed pieces as acts of terror - a notion that bears a more than passing resemblence to the logic used by Stalin's NKVD) is anything less than 100% should be a cause for celebration.

If a foreign country did to me what the US has done to some of these people, and I escaped from their clutches, I wouldn't rest for a single moment until every last one of the responsible SOBs was dead. And I'd make darn sure my children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, cousins, etc. felt the same way.

So the real news here isn't that we've sown some Dragon's Teeth, come back to bite us. The big story is how few of them have germinated.

Churchy: "How do you circus people catch an animal?"

Bun Rabbit: "Well, usually we dig a pit and cover it with leaves, and when the animal falls in we beat him with sticks, throw him in a cage and feed him slops. Is this a wild animal you're trying to catch?"

Churchy: " . . . it's sure gonna be wild when you get through with it."

(quote from memory)

First, a comment about Abu Bakker Qassim's op-ed.

The byline on that piece indicates that he's writing from Albania. I guess that means he's not in Guantanamo Bay anymore, and has been released from US custody.

In a way I'd say that was too bad, because if we were still holding him I'd suggest that the right way to resolve his case would be to offer him a profound apology, then offer him US citizenship and a ticket to the US for his entire family.

Assuming he'd be interested.

I've read a lot of stuff, pro and con, about our foreign policy and our actual practices over the last eight years, but I can't think of anything else I've seen that outdoes his affirmation of, and steadfast confidence in, the principles that are this nation's ostensible reason for being. And he, a guy who suffered for our neglect of them. Nor have I come across much, if anything, that matches the sense of forbearance and forgiveness that he expresses.

Regarding the recidivism issue:

My sense is that a lot of folks in the DOD and intelligence communities are living in fear of jail time for their involvement in torture or other crimes or potential crimes. There's good reason for that fear, because some of those crimes carry very heavy penalties.

I suspect that is part of lies behind the recent flurry of articles and disclosures like this.

I'm absolutely against the use of torture, on both moral and practical grounds, and I believe we need to do everything we can to make a clear renunciation of its use.

That said, I think there are a lot of folks who got involved in it in, for lack of a better word, good faith. It was the policy, they were scrupulous and careful in carrying it out, and many I am sure expressed their misgivings at what they were being asked to do.

Some folks kept prisoners awake for 24 hours straight. Some beat prisoners to death. Even though both are, arguably, guilty of a crime, I don't think they deserve the same treatment.

I think we need to find a way to distinguish between people who are, truly, guilty of heinous criminal behavior, and others whose crime was carrying out responsibilities given to them at a difficult time, when the policies and legalities were matters of debate.

I'm not sure how to do that. But I'm not sure the best interest of all will be served by a roundup and prosecution of everyone, everywhere, who was in any way involved.

I think a lot of folks will be well relieved to see the policy change, and would be grateful for a chance to come in from the cold.

Right, russell. They were just following orders.

I'll echo the amazement that more of the released haven't turned into terrorists (not returned- as Hilzoy notes, it's not recidivism or "returning to the fight" if they weren't in the fight in the first place).

But even if a former Gitmo prisoner wanted to get into the fight, doesn't the whole world know who they are? Wouldn't any terror group worth a damn no better than to get anywhere near these guys since it's an absolute certainty that they are being tracked by US intelligence and highly likely that they're under surveillance by the domestic security in whatever country will have them?

Besides the security scrutiny, how could they possibly be trusted? If one of them approached a terror group for the first time (remembering again that they'd not actually had such contacts in the first place) wouldn't the group immediately assume them to be informers? I would.

I mean, even if they wanted to become terrorists, as payback for what we did to them, chances are they're completely on their own. They're the least of our worries. A "recidivist" would just be another lone nutcase- but one who is under constant international scrutiny and unable to enter the US ever.

We've got plenty of lone nutcases right here at home, but you don't hear any generals fear-mongering about them.

"Some folks kept prisoners awake for 24 hours straight. Some beat prisoners to death. Even though both are, arguably, guilty of a crime, I don't think they deserve the same treatment."

I'm pretty sure that there's no legal defense against, if the facts are indisputed, beating a prisoner to death. Not to say that significant punishment is necessarily likely, but recall that, for instance, Dilawar's assaulters were, at least, found guilty.

Since we do seem to have a bit of a consensus (ThatLeftTurnInABQ, Hogan, RobW, etc.) developing here that being detained in Gitmo is an plausible (though even then, not laudable) reason for someone to turn to terrorism against the United States, I'm surprised that no one seems to be questioning the potential application of the term 'returning' to former detainees who engage in violent acts of terrorism because of their experience in Gitmo, not despite it.

Isn't it worth tracking or at least distinguishing how many people are radicalized by the experience who weren't before? (And the fact that there's probably going to be a significant number, that we subjected not just the guilty but also the innocent to the type of treatment that no one should ever experience at our hands just makes me want to hurl.)

That being said, I don't the Pentagon employees responsible for the report will go for such subtleties until they restrict themselves to considering violent acts as candidates for terrorist acts.

I don't want to sound like Ronald "I stand 8 hours a day, how can 4 hours be inhumane" Dumbsfeld but I think 24 hours does not yet qualify as real sleep deprivation (provided it is not repeated without proper sleep in-between). To set the torture barrier that low in discussion tends to be counterproductive (even without [enter very derogatory term] like Joe Scarborough being part of the discussion). That's another reason why I think torture cases should be treated in order of declining severity, i.e. starting with the clear-cut cases and then going down into the less b/w areas. And of course it should be top-down for the responsibility (WH=>Pentagon=>Gitmo Miller=>torture unit leaders=>individual torturers), all the more because it would make it easier to distinguish between individual guilt and "just" following orders. Sadism beyond orders would be aggravating (This is not meant as "following orders = not guilty").

Hartmut, send me an email.

IME, this isn't something we need to spend time worrying about. They're much more interested, at this point, in getting on with their lives.

Right, russell. They were just following orders.

The Nuremberg Defense, I think, doesn't really cut it.


The practices that fall under approved "harsh interrogation" range from yelling at prisoners to waterboarding.

Practices beyond the approved ones include beating people to death.

At what point, exactly, is someone guilty of torture, or a war crime?

That's not really clear right now. If you're one of the folks who beat someone to death, I would hope it would be pretty clear to you that you stand at risk. If you're one of the folks who yelled at someone during an interrogation, I would hope it would be pretty clear that you do not.

If you're one of the folks who chained someone to the floor, or kept someone awake for hours or days, where do you stand?

Particularly if chaining someone to the floor was, at the time, stated to be acceptable from the POTUS on down, with full agreement from the White House OLC.

Where do those folks stand? It's not clear. So I think those folks are probably pretty anxious.

And I think that we, as a nation, should we actually take on the task of prosecuting folks who were involved in all of this, need to be discriminating in how we proceed.

J. H. Newbold.

Sorry, has anyone been released at this point for lack of evidence, procedural errors or what have you? I confess I gave more attention to our David Hicks than to other cases, but unless I missed something big, no one's release has been compelled.

This indicates that your metric is 100%. Everyone who has "turned to a life of terror" was radicalised in detention. The only alternative is even more embarrassing, that they had captured dangerous, unrepentant terrorists but couldn't identify them with all of their 'enhanced' measures.

I am impressed at how the Pentagon has managed to reframe the debate, though.

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