Guantanamo Bay's "Seemingly Endless Supply of Embarrassments"
The Times' Guantanamo-beat reporter William Glaberson pounced on remarks by Pentagon official Susan Crawford regarding why a detainee could not be prosecuted in Thursday's "Torture Acknowledgment Highlights Detainee Issue."
Glaberson took quite a broad view of "torture":
When the senior official for the Pentagon's military commissions said this week that interrogators tortured a detainee at Guantánamo Bay and that therefore he could not be prosecuted, she highlighted the hard question at the center of the incoming Obama administration's effort to form a new detention policy.
Until the remarks by the official, Susan J. Crawford, it had sometimes seemed an academic debate whether a new administration would encounter detainees who might be considered too dangerous to release but who could not be prosecuted. This was a flesh-and-blood case: a Saudi, Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was kept in isolation and cold rooms, deprived of sleep, made to do dog tricks and broken by sexual and other humiliations too numerous to list. But Mr. Qahtani may also have been the would-be "20th hijacker," willing, perhaps, to wield a box cutter back on Sept. 11, 2001.
But National Review legal affairs editor Andy McCarthy argued Wednesday night on "Room for Debate" (a new nytimes.com blog that features opinions from outside contributors on hot topics) that Crawford's definition of torture was impossibly broad:
Ms. Crawford's conclusion is another instance of the military getting it wrong. Isolation and temperature variations of the type we are talking about here are not torture. To contend otherwise is to trivialize something that is truly heinous. It may be politically correct, but it is wrong. American law has always maintained a bright line between the egregious pain and suffering caused by actual torture and other forms of abusive conduct. Ms. Crawford's suggestion that abusive conduct that has a "medical impact" meets the "legal definition of torture" is preposterous.
Glaberson was undaunted in his Thursday piece:
So far, the signals are that President-elect Barack Obama will reject as un-American the calls for a law allowing indefinite detention. Coupled with that, the new administration may view risk differently than the old one, willing, perhaps, to take the chance of releasing a broken man like Mr. Qahtani, whom the Bush administration has locked up as if he were a ticking time bomb.
Glaberson provided no evidence to back up his emotionally manipulative sentiment of Qahtani as "a broken man."
If Mr. Qahtani does end up going home, it may not be because the new government concludes that he is no risk at all, but because of a view that maintaining the Guantánamo prison, with its seemingly endless supply of embarrassments, is not worth the cost in terms of the United States' image abroad or at home.
Glaberson is clearly hostile to the idea that releasing prisoners from Gitmo would have any negative consequences:
In the same vein, the Pentagon this week distributed its latest tally of released detainees it classifies as having "returned to the fight" against Americans. A spokesman put the number at 61, but did not provide any way of authenticating that number, and the tally itself has sometimes been viewed as little more than public relations for the Guantánamo center.
But if the incoming officials were not clear on the complexities of closing the prison, Wednesday's reaction to Ms. Crawford's remarks focused the mind. Defense lawyers and human rights groups said Mr. Qahtani was far from the only detainee who was treated abusively - or tortured, to use Ms. Crawford's word.
The verdict in the first war crimes trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is in: One poorly educated Yemeni, with an impish sense of humor and two little girls, is guilty of supporting terrorism by driving Osama bin Laden.