Saturday, January 8, 2011

"potential to harm our national security"

Several hours after yesterday's sentencing hearing in the 1st civilian trial of a onetime Guantánamo detainee -- convicted of an offense that carries a potential life sentence -- President Barack Obama challenged Congress as acting against U.S. security. His exact words:
The prosecution of terrorists in Federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation and must be among the options available to us. Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our Nation's counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security.
Such an attempt in fact had been made. Successfully.
Tucked into the annual defense spending bill -- passed by Republicans and Democrats alike in last month's lame-duck session -- were:
► Section 1032, which, as Obama explained "bars the use of funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act for fiscal year 2011 to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States"; and
► Section 1033, which "bars the use of certain funds to transfer detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries unless specified conditions are met."
Despite contending that these sections may "harm our national security," Obama chose against a veto. He signed the bill into law lest ongoing military efforts go unfunded. The quoted words thus appear in a signing statement that may have little practical effect other than to emphasize the approach of 2 anniversaries:
► This Tuesday, January 11, will mark 9 years since the 1st post-9/11 detainees arrived at GTMO, on orders of President George W. Bush.
► 2 weeks from today, Saturday, January 22, will mark 1 year after GTMO was to have been closed according to the order that Obama issued, in fulfillment of a key campaign promise, the day after becoming President.
Of the estimated 700 boys and men who are said to have passed through the detention center in the last 9 years, 173 remain.

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