Rep. King: Obama should do a 180 on Gitmo, too
By Eric Zimmermann
May 17, 2009
The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee predicted on Sunday that President Obama would reverse his decision to close Guantanamo Bay after realizing the difficulty of dealing with the detainees.
“I expect to see that reversed by next January,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y) said on CBS’s "Face the Nation," adding that the president “made a mistake by setting an arbitrary deadline.”
On his second day in office, President Obama ordered the military prison closed by January of 2010. Republicans have blasted the president in recent weeks for planning to transfer at least some of the Guantanamo detainees into U.S. facilities.
King said the administration shouldn’t rush to transfer the detainees simply to meet the deadline,
“They should stay in Guantanamo until the president finds out where they should go,” he said.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), responded that federal courts and prisons are perfectly capable of trying and holding suspected terrorists and criticized Obama for continuing a modified version of the Bush administration’s military tribunals.
“By continuing with the Bush military commissions, we’re going to delay justice,” Romero said, adding that partisan bickering and legislative changes would slow the process.
The federal court system, Romero noted, has successfully convicted Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” as well as Jose Padilla, suspected of planning to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker on 9/11.
King defended the president’s decisions, calling the military tribunals a “step in the right direction.”
“As far as I can tell, it gives more rights to defendants than were given at Nuremberg,” King said, referring to the prosecutions of Nazi war crimes.
Romero also called for the release of approximately 2,000 photos showing possible detainee abuse in U.S. facilities. The Obama administration last week reversed a previous decision to release the photos, citing concern for the safety of U.S. soldiers.
Romero, whose organization’s lawsuit has forced the impasse over the photos, responded that the photos will help ensure accountability and allow the country to move forward.
“The 2,000 photos, the sheer volume of them show that these are not a couple of isolated incidents,” he said. “That’s why we need them--to ensure accountability.”
King agreed with Obama that the photos could lead to more attacks on U.S. troops and said the ACLU “delights in tearing down the United States.”
“I say let’s get behind our president,” he said, adding that “the more pictures [are released], the more damage.”