Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Making Detainee Policy Behind our Backs - How the Senate burried a controversial directive to the President on Guantanimo Bay

Most of you probably don't read press releases from the Senate Appropriations Committee. I do, and this one, on the Fiscal Year 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation is a humdinger.

Why? Well on the last page, the Senate and House Conferees have added language as a rider to the bill that restrains the President in how he can close the prison at Guantanimo Bay:

Guantanamo Detainees: Language is included that 1) Prohibits current detainees from being released into the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, D.C., or any U.S. territory; 2) Prohibits current detainees from being transferred to the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, D.C., or any U.S. territory, except to be prosecuted and only 45 days after Congress receives a plan detailing: risks involved and a plan for mitigating such risk; cost of the transfer; legal rationale and court demands; and a copy of the notification provided to the Governor of the receiving State 14 days before a transfer with a certification by the Attorney General that the individual poses little or no security risk; 3) Current detainees cannot be transferred or released to another country (including freely associated states) unless the President submits to Congress 15 days prior to such transfer: the name of the individual and the country the individual will be transferred to; an assessment of risks posed and actions taken to mitigate such risks; and the terms of the transfer agreement with the other country, including any financial assistance; 4) Requires the President to submit a report to Congress describing the disposition of each current detainee before the facility can be closed.

So, in essence, the House and Senate, while deciding how to fund some fairly important agencies in the federal government have also decided to drag out a process that is already too long in the making, and which represents a real threat to the U.S. because Guantanimo is known to be used as a terrorist recruiting tool. And all done as a rider on an Appropriations Bill which doesn't even fund Guantanimo activities.

Is this common? yes, Congress authorizes in appropriations bills all the time, and vice versa. Is it good policy? No, because by adding this direction as a rider to an appropriations bill, the Conferees have made sure it sees little debate, evades most media scrutiny, and will likely be signed by the President, no matter how much it hamstrings him.

Change We Can Believe In? I think not.

President Obama signed this Appropriations Bill into law on 17 December 2009, so these restrictions are now binding on the Executive Branch. One has to wonder if this language has anything to do with today's announcement that 6 Yemini detainees are being repatriated from Guantanimo.

No comments: