Guantánamo policy risks long-term harm to US, former CIA official writes

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President Obama’s decision to go ahead with military tribunals at Guantánamo and authorize indefinite detention of prisoners represents a final retreat from his campaign promise to close the controversial facility

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Although Obama signed an order in 2009 to shutter the prison, the order was never fully implemented, and lawmakers have balked at the idea of bringing accused terrorists to the US for trial.

Obama’s change of heart on Guantánamo has disappointed many of his supporters, especially because Guantánamo was seen as emblematic of former president George W. Bush’s approach to foreign policy. Now Bush’s detainee policy appears to have the blessing of his Democratic successor.

And one former CIA official now at Harvard, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, writes that the apparently permanent place of the Guantánamo prison in American foreign policy will do lasting damage to the image of the US:

As a retired CIA officer, I’m not “soft” on terrorism. I’m not advocating that we release dangerous terrorists. I am not saying that U.S. laws should apply to the detainees as for citizens. But even our enemies deserve due process under the law. Even our enemies — especially our enemies — deserve a form of swift and fair justice. If some of these men are released and return to threaten us one day, then so be it; we must not be guided by fear…

Obama says he remains committed to closing the facility eventually, but in a written statement did not indicate any timeframe for doing so.

But the Obama administration has released some detainees, lowering the number of inmates to 172, compared to 242 when he took office.

Globe file photo: A soldier stands at the entrance to the Camp Delta detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in 2004.

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