Surely, if an acquittal occurred--even if the defendant was then deported to his country of origin--the Republicans and the right-wing media would stoke fears about this dangerous terrorist let loose to wreak havoc. Without doubt, some Americans would fall under the spell of that fear-mongering.
The New York Times played into that pattern last week by touting a dubious report prepared by Bush's Pentagon in December 2008, which claimed that one in seven detainees released from Guantanamo "returned"- to militant activity. Cheney cited that figure in opposing Obama's promise to close the Guantanamo prison.
However, the evidence in the Pentagon report--details that were buried deep inside the Times article--identified only five released detainees (out of 534) who "have engaged in verifiable terrorist activity or have threatened terrorist acts," the Times reported. In other words, less than one in 100 of the freed prisoners, not one in seven. [See Consortiumnews.com's "NYT Helps the Bushies, Again."]
The pressure on Obama to permit "prolonged detentions" also may reflect the Pentagon's blurring of the lines between militants and media workers. It has become trendy inside U.S. counterinsurgency to lump journalists who criticize American actions with combatants engaging in violent acts.
For example, the U.S. military in Iraq has detained Ibahim Jassam, a Reuters cameraman, since September 2008 despite an Iraqi court order calling for his release and the absence of any formal charges against him.
The U.S. military continues to justify his detention on the basis of undisclosed intelligence that Jassam is a "a high security threat," said Maj. Neal Fisher, a spokesman for detainee affairs.
Journalists for the Arab TV network al-Jazeera also have been targeted for detention as well as for military attack.
Al-Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj was held at Guantanamo from December 2001 to May 2008 as U.S. interrogators unsuccessfully pressed him to link al-Jazeera to al-Qaeda. [For more on U.S. double standards regarding journalists, see this article by Jeremy Scahill.]
Obama's proposal for "prolonged detentions" would seem to invite continuation of such prolonged abuses, when the intelligence data is vague or has little direct connection to terrorist acts.
It appears that Obama is signaling to frightened Americans that even if there is no usable evidence against detainees, he will protect the U.S. homeland by keeping the suspects locked up for the foreseeable future anyway.
That would be a victory for Scaredy-Cat Nation, but it would be a defeat for the honorable system that has guided Constitutional America for more than two centuries. Obama's plan looks to be a cave-in to the cycle of fear that has done so much damage to the Republic.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.