In his front-page story Sunday, reporter Scott Shane made excuses for President Obama's inaction on Obama's delay in fulfilling his campaign pledge to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The excuses actually began in the headline, "Detainee's Case Illustrates Bind Of Prison's Fate." As if Obama's Gitmo "bind" is not one of his own making.
Shane uncovered an Obama-friendly excuse for delaying the prison's closure, focusing on the case of one Alla Bin Ali Ahmed of Yemen. Although a federal judge ruled Ahmed had been incarcerated unjustly, the administration expressed fears that "Guantánamo itself might have radicalized him, exposing him to militants and embittering him against the United States."
Shane hardly mentions other factors that complicate the closing of Guantanamo, such as no country or U.S. state willing to accept the prisoners, or some of the allegedly innocent residents from Guantanamo rejoining the fight against U.S. troops and engaging in other forms of terrorism upon release. Did Obama and his advisers truly have no clue about those factors before appeasing his anti-war left-wing base during the campaign? And why isn't the Times asking Obama such questions?
To understand how hard it is proving for President Obama to close the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, consider the case of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, Internee Security No. 692. His long-delayed departure last week leaves 97 Yemenis at the complex in Cuba, by far the largest remaining group.
It was seven years ago that Mr. Ahmed, then 18, was swept up by Pakistani security forces in a raid on a Faisalabad guesthouse and taken to the prison. It was five months ago that a federal judge, after reviewing all the government's classified evidence, ruled that his incarceration had never been justified and ordered the government to get to work "forthwith" on his release.
But Obama administration officials were worried. Even if Mr. Ahmed was not dangerous in 2002, they said, Guantánamo itself might have radicalized him, exposing him to militants and embittering him against the United States. If he returned to his troubled homeland of Yemen, the officials feared, he might fall in with the growing contingent of Al Qaeda there, one more Guantánamo survivor to star in their propaganda videotapes.
Shane downplayed Obama's campaign pledge to close Guantanamo Bay; the phrase "campaign pledge" doesn't appear in his story. There's only that bare mention of a "pledge" buried in paragraph nine:
Mr. Ahmed is the first Yemeni to depart Guantánamo since Mr. Obama's promise, the day after his inauguration, to close the prison complex in Cuba within a year - a deadline that aides now say may not be met. Since Yemenis now make up nearly half of the 220 remaining prisoners, an exit route for them is critical.
For Mr. Obama, Guantánamo has become both a security challenge and a political headache. A group of retired generals and admirals who stood behind him when he signed the closing order were back in Washington last week to make sure the administration did not renege on its pledge. Meanwhile, the House approved a nonbinding recommendation that no Guantánamo detainee be brought to American soil, even for trial.
Shane later found some "experts" to take the pressure off Obama some more:
But given the instability, some experts say, the administration is right not to simply send most of the Yemenis home. "Right now, there's no comprehensive program to integrate these guys back into Yemeni society," said Christopher Boucek, who studies Yemen as an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.