Advancing a Free Society

Wikileaks on Guantanamo Resettlement

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Larkin and I were planning to post a detailed account of what the Wikileaks cables say about  Guantanamo resettlement efforts, but Charlie Savage and Andrew Lehren of the New York Times have beaten us to the punch with an excellent overview. I won’t repeat the facts here, but a few thoughts are in order.

The effort to close Guantanamo involves a complicated set of constraints that limit the options of the policymakers. For political reasons, policymakers can’t free any detainees here at home. Prosecutors can’t charge all that many of them with crimes, and even if they could, there are political and logistical constraints associated with both of the available trial forums. The administration can’t send them home to countries likely to torture them. And it cannot lawfully hold those whom a habeas court deems outside of the detention power conferred by the AUMF beyond the time it takes to arrange repatriation or resettlement. These constraints, along with others, cumulatively put an enormous premium on diplomatic efforts to resettle certain detainees in countries not their own and that will not mistreat them but will keep an eye on them. It should therefore be no surprise whatsoever that the State Department has engaged in a certain amount of horsetrading with a wide range of different countries that may offer resettlement opportunities. That some of these countries are places of which most Americans have never heard (Can you find Kiribati on a map?) and that some of the specific horsetrading looks more than a little bit like bribery shows merely that the administration has been energetic in seeking out options and has played the cards it has in its hand to make those options viable. I would have been frankly disappointed if the cables revealed anything else.

Continue reading Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare